Sooners knock off Bobcats

OU guard Steven Pledger dribbles up the court.

NORMAN, Okla. — The Sooners made it a perfect 2-for-2 at Lloyd Noble Center Saturday, defeating last year's Sweet Sixteen bound Ohio Bobcats 74-63 to go along with the women's victory over Cal State Northridge earlier in the day.

Forward Romero Osby commanded the offense with 12 first half points—he finished with 16 overall—and guard Steven Pledger got hot in the second half to pull OU away in a crucial late December non-conference contest.

"Well, it was a good win over a good ball club," said OU head coach Lon Kruger. "Ohio's really, really solid and Jim does such a good job with them, so feel real good about the stretch of play in the second half. I thought it was as good as we've had all year on both ends of the floor. Been thinking we were going to shoot it better than we have on the season.

"Obviously the second half we did. Got off to a great start, then everyone kicking it. It started with Pledger in the second half making shots early and think that picked everyone else up and everyone responded in a good way."

That included a game-high 18 points from him after starting just 1-of-9 in the first half.

Meanwhile, forward Amath M'Baye broke out of his recent slump, managing a double-digit performance of his own with 16 points.

He snatched six rebounds to help OU outboard the Bobcats 33-30.

"It feels pretty good," M'Baye said. "I mean it was way more fun definitely for my part to be out there, and I mean my teammates have always done a great job keeping my head in there and just supporting me whether I was playing good or bad. And then nobody ever panicked, and the coaching staff did the same thing. They always pushed me. They were always here when I needed to talk and stuff. I mean it was a little hard to start off, and I'm feeling better about it now and I'm looking forward to the next couple games."

Still, the best part of the night may be the Sooners' much improved shooting, where they can 47.4 percent of their attempts thanks to a 70 percent second half.

And their ability to take care of the ball for most of the evening, something they focused on over the break, allowed them to maximize the amount of possessions they were able to get shots up.

In addition to that, they forced 18 Ohio turnovers and converted those into 22 points.

"I thought a lot of good activity defensively as well," Kruger said. "You know, they're a ball club that spreads you out and are tough to guard. I thought our guys really as a unit [had] good communication and reacted well to one another."

While OU had a trio of double figure scorers, three also did so for the Bobcats.

Guard D.J. Cooper led the way with his 14, while forward Reggie Keely added 13, and guard Walter Offutt poured in 11.

It was a back-and-forth game that featured four first half ties and seven lead changes, including a 29-29 tie at intermission.

But the Sooners took control early in the second half, dominating the opening five minutes with a 12-3 stretch.

That opened up their largest lead of the game at the time when it was 41-32 and never relinquished it, as they quickly got up by double digits.

It appeared Ohio would claw its way back into the game, but a stretch that presented four straight makes from Sooner sharpshooting guard Steven Pledger moved the advantage back out past 10 at 54-43.

"We were just trying to move the ball, come off a couple screens," Pledger said. "And the guys, big guys, especially Amath and Roe and Fitz [Andrew Fitzgerald], they set beautiful screens, and I just use them to my advantage. And I was just getting the ball in the right spots. Je'lon [Hornbeak] and Buddy [Hield] were really putting it right where I wanted it so I could just catch and shoot, and I just felt real good."

Again, though, the Bobcats made a push, this time a stronger push.

They closed to within four.

But OU made a stronger pull away.

Back-to-back dunks by forward Cameron Clark, one of which came off a steal, ran the count back out to eight.

Moments later, Pledger, who was just 1-of-8 in the first half, hit a couple huge shots, one a triple, that gave OU a double digit lead once again and the Sooners were able to extend it out to a comfortable 15 inside the four-minute mark.

"It was just all my shots were dying on the rim just like I wanted them to, they just weren't going in," Pledger said. "So, I made the adjustment at halftime, just getting my fingers on the ball a little bit more and everything started dropping."

They cruised from there.

The victory helps OU improve to 8-3 with one more out-of-conference game remaining before the Big 12 opener at West Virginia in a week.

OU will host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the second part of the Field House Series at 2 p.m. CT Monday inside McCasland Field House.

Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.

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