“From start to finish it might be a little bit more special because of the fact Kansas State is a top-20 team,” Kruger said. “Our guys had a lot of respect for them going in.”
Certainly it wasn’t just any ordinary win for Kruger and the Sooners, especially since it came against his former school and previous stomping grounds as a head coach.
But he played it off that way.
“I’m alum, so that’s a little something, but no, it’s not anything anyone thought about,” Kruger said. “I know our players didn’t think about it. It didn’t change anything with them.”
Regardless, the victory got the Sooners off the schnide.
They were losers of their last three and four of the last five, their latest a 72-65 Bedlam setback in Stillwater.
From the beginning, though, it was evident this one would be different.
The Sooners quickly seized a 7-0 lead out of the gates and never trailed, taking it wire to wire.
They led by as much as 12 twice in the first half, both in the final three minutes, on their way to a 38-29 halftime advantage.
OU strung it out to its largest margin with 8:28 to go when guard Cameron Clark, who finished with 10 points coming off the bench, hit a jumper to put the Crimson and Cream up 69-51.
“I think Cam played his best stretch of minutes today in a while,” Kruger said. “It was good to see him come in and get a couple shots and, defensively, rebound the basketball.”
Still, it could have been even worse had the Sooners not been dominated on the glass.
Kansas State, the Big 12’s No. 2 rebounding team, out-boarded the conference’s top rebounding squad 44-24 in the contest.
Twenty of those came on the offensive glass, but fortunately for the Sooners, Kansas State could only convert those into 25 points, a mark that could have been strikingly worse had the Wildcats been able to knock down some of their threes.
“That’s what we do,” said Kansas State head coach Frank Martin. “But we’re averaging--if you eliminate the Missouri game--we’re averaging 20 turnovers a game in Big 12 play. It will be hard to win any games when you do that.”
To his point, the Sooners turned the Wildcats over 19 times to just 13 of their own.
Therefore, many of those extra possessions because of offensive boards ended up empty because of turnovers.
The Sooners’ stingy defense certainly had some factor in that.
Couple that with 70 percent shooting in the second half on the other end of the court, and it’s easy to see why OU was able to overcome its rebounding woes.
“Wouldn’t have liked the feeling of that,” said Kruger of knowing going in that they’d rebound so poorly. “And especially since when you play a Kansas State team, that’s a big priority going in, is trying to limit their second chance points, their efforts to the boards because they do such a good job of that. And given that we didn’t do that, we had to shoot it great to have a chance. That was a big key.”
OU finished 54.9 percent overall for the game, while the Wildcats were just 39.1 percent.
That included just 10-of-30 from behind the arc.
The Sooners made four of their nine tries from long range.
Sooner forward Andrew Fitzgerald led all scorers with 21 points on a near-perfect 9-for-10 shooting afternoon.
“What we did is just come out and shoot the ball with confidence, really,” Fitzgerald said. “A lot our teammates set us up in the right place at the right time. When they deliver the ball, we just have to make the shot for our team. It all just comes down to us to keep working on it in practice, like getting shots up after practice or even before.”
Forward Romero Osby and guard Steven Pledger added 10 for the Sooners.
Guard Rodney McGruder led the way with 19 in the Wildcats’ losing effort.
Guard Jeremy Jones and forward Nino Williams had 12, and guard Will Spradling finished with 11 second half points as the Wildcats fell to 1-3 in conference play.
The Sooners (11-5 overall) improve to 1-3 in Big 12 Conference play and await Texas Tech at 7 p.m. Tuesday at LNC.
Kansas State now returns home for a midweek battle against Texas at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
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