OKLAHOMA CITY — Early in the second half, the basketball equivalent of a quagmire had taken over Oklahoma’s meeting with Texas A&M in the All-College Classic. Shots weren’t falling and turnovers were piling up at a rapid pace.
Cameron Clark broke the Sooners out of the rut in Saturday’s 64-54 victory over the Aggies at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The junior forward — almost single-handedly — ignited a 10-0 run that put OU in motion.
“Cam’s activity was fantastic,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “He had a really good week of practice. He was attacking. He knocked down a couple of jumpers and got the rim a couple of times. He worked really hard defensively.”
For the first time this season, he left the impression he could be the Sooners’ best player. His 17 points were the most in more than a year and the first time he has cracked double digits this season.
“It was a good game. It was about time, which is what I would say,” Clark said.
The Sooners (7-2) had to have it. Forward Romero Osby led them with a game-high 19 points. Steven Pledger added 10, was limited to 21 minutes due to early foul trouble.
Starters Amath M’Baye, Isaiah Cousins and Je’lon Hornbeak were a combined 0-for-13 from the field with two points.
Obviously, OU’s bench picked up the slack. Freshman guard Buddy Hield added 12 points to help the Sooners’ bench outscore the Aggies’ reserves, 33-13.
However, it was more than energy that OU got off its bench. Kruger played Clark, who was named the event’s MVP, at the power forward spot. There was a size disadvantage, but he was able to beat Texas A&M post players Kourtney Roberson and Ray Turner away from the basket.
“When Cameron Clark came in and played a 4, or something that he hadn’t done a whole lot of this year and make shots like he made, that makes a tough match up,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said.
The Sooners exploited it. Twelve of Clark’s 17 points came in the second half and 10 of those came during a 21-7 run that started with a Clark layup at 11:41 to give the Sooners a 43-41 lead and ended with a Clark jumper to put the them up 62-48 with four minutes to go.
“Coach is always on him about attacking. I am always in his ear telling him to keep attacking,” Osby said of Clark. “I am not taking credit for it; he really works hard before and after every practice. When a guy works like that, eventually they are due for something big. I am happy that he got a chance to do it, and we got a win out of it.”
The Sooners won despite shooting just 38.9 percent. They got away with it by forcing 19 turnovers (10 via steals) and going 18 for 19 from the free-throw line. Texas A&M was 20 for 50 (40 percent). Elston Turner led it with 17 points. Ray Turner added 12. Both are starters.
When Kruger went to his bench, the Aggies didn’t have an answer.
“Nice to have guys come off the bench and play when you have three players not getting any field goals. It’s been that way to this point. Different guys have come off the bench and picked us up,” Kruger said. “Buddy did a really good job coming in the first half and gave us good activity in the second half. Cam, of course, was fantastic.”
John ShinnFollow me @email@example.com