OU races to early lead, holds off UTEP, 68-61
BY Staff Reports
Friday, November 23, 2012
11/23/12 at 4:41 AM
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Oklahoma used a hot start and big shot to defeat UTEP 68-61 in the first round of the Old Spice Classic Thursday night. The Sooners meet Gonzaga, which beat Clemson 57-49 in a quarterfinal, in Friday's 6:30 p.m. semifinals.
The Sooners rolled to a 15-0 lead in Thursday's first 4:45, and it appeared they could name their score. It was 52-32 after Isaiah Cousins' 3-pointer five minutes into the second half, but then OU lost its shooting touch and the Miners rallied. When C.J. Cooper made two free throws with 1:44 remaining, UTEP was within 64-60.
On the ensuing possession, Steven Pledger turned what he called a "broken play" into a guarded 3-pointer out of the corner. That gave the Sooners some breathing room, at 67-60, with 1:07 to play.
When Romero Osby rebounded a UTEP miss back down the floor, OU could feel comfortable about making the semifinals.
"I kind of pride myself on big shots," Pledger said during a postgame interview on the Sooner Radio Network, "but we never should have gotten into that situation to begin with."
OU made just four field goals after Cousins' 3 increased the lead to 20 early in the second half. It wasn't that the Sooners got careless - something that nearly cost them a victory at Texas-Arlington last week - it's just they stopped making anything.
Their final 15 minutes were the direct opposite of their first five, when they nearly put the game away.
Osby, who finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots, went strong to the basket for the game's first points. Osby dunked off Cousins' assist, then Amath M'Baye scored a putback to make it 6-0.
"I thought we had a lot of good stretches," coach Lon Kruger said during his postgame radio interview. "There were others where we couldn't get a shot down. But I thought we worked hard all night long. It was a good way to start the weekend."
Pledger joined Osby in double figures with 12 points.
Original Print Headline: Sooners hold off UTEP