The Norman Transcript

March 7, 2013

Seniors lead Sooners to victory in Lloyd Noble finale

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — One streak ended for Oklahoma on Wednesday, but a more important one continued. It rolled past West Virginia, 83-70, at Lloyd Noble Center to claim its fifth straight home victory.

The win also lifted the Sooners to 20-9 overall and 11-6 in the Big 12 Conference, with only Saturday’s regular-season finale at TCU remaining.

For the fourth straight home game, OU never trailed. The run is now up to 194 minutes and 26 seconds without trailing on its home floor.

Romero Osby and Steven Pledger helped ensure that string grew. Osby scored a game-high 26 points, and Steven Pledger poured in 23 in both player’s last games at Lloyd Noble Center.

The emotions didn’t pour out after the game. OU celebrated Senior Day last Saturday prior to the victory over Iowa State.

Nonetheless, the victory had major sentimental value because it brought OU one step closer to the NCAA Tournament berth it has coveted for four years, but it secured OU’s first 20-win season since 2009.

“It meant a lot,” Pledger said. “I’ve been here all four years and (have) been through the ups and downs. It definitely meant a lot to me.”

The Sooners’ seniors were major contributors. Point guard Sam Grooms was 3 for 3 from the field and finished with eight points and three assists. Andrew Fitzgerald only scored five points, but they all come during a critical stretch with a few minutes left.

The Mountaineers (13-17, 6-11 Big 12) trailed by as many as 17 in the first half but whittled the deficit down to four points.

Then Fitzgerald converted a three-point play and sank a jumper after a steal by Grooms to kick the lead back up nine, 73-64, with four minutes to go.

West Virginia didn’t get any closer.

“The last game here was bitter sweet,” Osby said. “It was the last game here, but at least we got a win. It was great. We appreciate all the support. It’s been a long time coming. I’m just glad we could get a win on the last night.”

Osby and Pledger combined to make 16 of OU’s 26 shots. The Sooners were 26 for 52 from the field and hit 10 of 18 from 3-point range. Pledger hit five of those 3s.

Eron Harris led the Mountaineers, who shot 53 percent (27 for 51) with 23 points. Deniz Kilicli added 20. Neither was enough to keep West Virginia from dropping its fifth straight game.

Above all else, the win kept OU on track to lift its seed for next week’s Big 12 tournament and, perhaps, the NCAA Tournament.

The Sooners still have a chance at finishing third in the conference standings. No. 13 Oklahoma State lost at Iowa State on Wednesday, which at least opened the door to the possibility. OU must win at TCU Saturday and hope the Cowboys fall to No. 9 Kansas State for it to become a reality.

“We’ve done a really good job of focusing on getting ready to play, and we’ve been very consistent in that effort,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “We continue to play well and make shots and make the extra pass. We just have to keep getting better.”

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

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