The Norman Transcript

Sports

February 22, 2013

Sooners lean on upperclassmen during crucial stretch

NORMAN — Oklahoma can take a lot of positives away from Wednesday night’s 86-71 victory over Texas Tech.

It shot the ball extremely well. The point total was a season high, and the 53.3-percent shooting percentage marked just the third time OU has made more than it has missed this season.

The major reason all those came to fruition was the play of Steven Pledger, Romero Osby, Amath M’Baye, Sam Grooms and Cameron Clark. They scored 70 of the Sooners’ points.

It’s hard to ignore what they have in common — all five are juniors or older.

OU coach Lon Kruger didn’t downplay the significance of their experience after Wednesday night’s victory.

“They’ve been in this situation before and they’re comfortable because they know how tough it is,” he said. “I think that’s all part of it.”

The experience was needed against the Red Raiders. OU (17-8, 8-5 Big 12) was able to hold off a couple Texas Tech (9-15, 2-11) rallies and it also overcame a tough night from freshmen guards Je’lon Hornbeak and Isaiah Cousins.

Hornbeak suffered a minor ankle injury in the second half and only played 17 minutes. OU coach Lon Kruger said Hornbeak could have returned to the game if needed. However, Hornbeak was just 1 for 6 from the field.

The decision to play Cousins for just 10 minutes was strictly Kruger’s. He struggled with four turnovers (all steals that resulted in a layups by Texas Tech guard Josh Gray) and only took one shot (a miss).

Cousins’ body language after giving up back-to-back steals to Gray midway through the second half spoke volumes. Kruger had to get him out of the game.

Grooms, a senior, fully understood what Cousins was going through.

“Being a point guard, it's tough. If he was out there making plays and everything was going right, everybody would have praised him,” Grooms said. “I had to explain to him, it's tough right now. It’s not as bad as it looks. He made a couple mistakes. Now he's got to regroup and understand that tomorrow he has to get better. I tried to pick him up as much as I could, because I've been there before. I've been there.”

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