ARLINGTON, Texas — Oklahoma forward Romero Osby figured Texas-Arlington fans would come out in bunches Friday night for the Mavericks’ home opener against the Sooners.
But that thought didn’t truly sink in until he and his teammates arrived at College Park Center amid the school’s homecoming festivities.
“I knew it was probably going to be packed,” Osby said. “But when I saw the parade outside, I said, ‘Man, we’re going to be in for it.”’
The Sooners nearly were in for an upset.
Buddy Hield scored 17 points and Osby grabbed 11 rebounds as Oklahoma escaped with a 63-59 win over Texas-Arlington.
Hield scored all 17 points in the first half, when the Sooners (2-0) put together a 24-3 run en route to a 38-28 halftime lead.
“Buddy was fantastic there in the first half,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “He came in when we were down eight or 10 and scored about every way you can.”
The Sooners extended their lead to 17 points with 15:13 left in the game, but the Mavericks (1-1) rallied to tie the game at 57-all on a Jordan Reves jumper with 2:46 left.
Steven Pledger made a 3-pointer on the Sooners’ next possession to retake the lead, and Oklahoma hit 3 of 4 free throws in the final 23 seconds to seal the win.
“When (Pledger) caught it, I saw he kind of put his head down a little bit so I tried to get in rebounding position, because I knew it was going up,” said Osby, who also scored 10 points. “But when it went in, that’s something you kind of expect from him to make big shots.”
Kevin Butler led Texas-Arlington with 16 points and Karol Gruszecki had 15. Reves had 10 rebounds for the Mavericks.
“I was proud of our guys,” Texas-Arlington coach Scott Cross said. “I don’t have that sick feeling in my heart, because I felt like they battled 40 minutes.”
The Mavericks outscored Oklahoma 28-16 the last 15 minutes of the game.
“For our guys to continue fighting and diving on the floor and having the opportunity to be able to win the game down the stretch, I think that speaks a lot to the type of character these guys have,” Cross said. “For that, I’m grateful and proud.”
Kruger said the Sooners can also take something from the experience.
“We didn’t handle (the lead) very well,” Kruger said. “We didn’t handle the pressure very well. That’s one of those things you can’t really simulate in practice, but we’ll learn a lot from it and guys will have this feeling to learn from.”
Friday night was Oklahoma’s first road test of the year, and it came in front of a record crowd of 6,421.
“From a learning standpoint, probably as good of an opportunity as you’re going to get,” Kruger said.
OU started the game shooting 1 for 8. Kruger said the Sooners didn’t respond well to UTA’s pressure, which helped the Mavericks jump out to a 12-3 lead.
“We didn’t dribble it very well, we didn’t pass it very well,” Kruger said. “It caused a lot of troubles when you have trouble doing both.”
Hield, who came off the bench, ignited the Sooners’ offense.
“He’s an emotional player who really gets into it,” Kruger said. “He’ll give us a lot of good stretches during the year.”