They knocked off the fifth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks for the first time since 2005 and snapped a 10-game losing streak to the former Big 12 North foe with a 72-66 triumph Saturday afternoon, sending the Lloyd Noble Center into a frenzy as fans stormed the court afterward.
"I see it on TV all the time, I'm like I wish we could get something like that to happen," said OU guard Steven Pledger. "And if we do, I didn't think they were going to let them do that. But we beat Kansas, low and behold, I turn around and everybody's rushing to me. So, I started jumping, too."
As the celebration after would indicate, it's a huge win in Sooner head coach Lon Kruger's attempts to resurrect what was a reeling program just a matter of months ago when Jeff Capel was fired.
This, no question, suggests that OU is back on track and perhaps finally back to its winning ways of old.
"It's a step, but there are a lot of steps," Kruger said. "This is a small step here. Again, it happened because these guys work hard and continue to work at it."
In order to get it done, the Sooners used a valiant effort from a pair of seniors.
Forward Romero Osby, shut down completely in the first meeting between the two in Lawrence, poured in a game-high 17 points and sharpshooting guard Steven Pledger, who’s endured a rough season to this point, finally caught some fire and dropped home 15 points.
He had a couple of critical triples.
"Just tried to keep my feet moving," Pledger said. "So, it might have been a little false movement here and there, but I just tried to keep my feet moving and keep my hands ready. You know, that's been a big problem for me this year. I wasn't really ready for any passes and things like that, so I just tried to stay ready for everything."
But so, too, did junior forward Amath M’Baye hit a pair of key threes, including one when Kansas finally threatened to retake the lead inside the five-minute mark.
That, at the time, made it 60-56.
The Jayhawks made another push to within one; that’s when Pledger fired from long range and hit.
Guard Je’lon Hornbeak, though, might have had the biggest hit of the contest.
With the Sooners leading 63-61 inside two minutes left, Osby passed up an open shot and instead dished to Hornbeak, who canned a massive trey.
"I passed up a couple just trying to get Ro[mero] going," Hornbeak said. "He just told me, 'Be ready to shoot. Get your feet ready.' And coaches, they were all behind me. That's when Coach Kruger actually put me in the game. He said, 'Be ready. There's going to be a time when you're going to have to knock a shot down. And Steve has always been on my back telling me big players make big shots.
"So, I got it, sized it up and I saw I had a lot of space. So, I took it."
OU did enough at the foul line down the stretch to close it out.
The Sooners led most all of the way, outside of the first couple minutes when they trailed 5-2 and a short moment later in the first half when it was 14-13 Kansas.
From there, Osby dictated, netting nine points on a perfect 3-for-3 in the opening 20 minutes.
"Romero is the cornerstone most of the time and Pledger most of the time and Amath most of the time," Kruger said. "Other guys just stepping up different times so it's great."
Because of that, OU led 38-34 at intermission despite trailing the points in the paint battle 18-6.
Several times the Sooners looked like they could break it open, but they never quite could as neither team led by more than nine in the contest.
Along with Osby and Pledger, forward Cameron Clark came up with some huge shots and finished in double figures with his 10.
For Kansas, three also did so, including guard Ben McLemore, center Jeff Withey and guard Elijah Johnson, who scored 15, 14 and 10, respectively.
Kansas actually outshot OU 46.3 percent to 44.8 percent but poor foul shooting—11-for-22, to be exact—plagued it in the contest.
Teams tied 35-35 in the rebounding battle and the Sooners had 13 assists to the Jayhawks’ 11.
Coming off a pair of losses to Kansas State and Iowa State, the Sooners (15-7, 6-4 Big 12) get back on track and eclipse their conference winning total from last season.
"When you beat a Kansas team, you always feel good about it," Kruger said. "I am really happy for the players and fans because those spontaneous celebrations are something you can't put a value on."
OU gets back to action and try to keep its momentum going in a 6 p.m. CT Monday battle at Lloyd Noble Center against cellar dweller TCU.
Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.