Improved depth boosts OU past Texas Tech
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Thursday, January 17, 2013
1/17/13 at 6:54 AM
Related Story: OU basketball notebook: Looking ahead
NORMAN - Oklahoma's improvement this basketball season comes down to something pretty simple: the Sooners have more capable players.
That comes in handy on nights like Wednesday, against an opponent like Texas Tech. The Red Raiders play hard, and stick to your shoe like a wad of bubble gum no matter how vigorously you shake your leg.
Still, the Sooners were able to win the game 81-63 because they had a deeper pool of contributors, players who passed the baton to one another in a string of individual spurts.
Freshman guard Isaiah Cousins scored off a steal and finish, capping a 6-0 run that put OU ahead for good at 13-7, and moments later converted after his offensive rebound. That made it 17-11 midway through the first half.
Reserve forward Andrew Fitzgerald guided the Sooners to halftime with three jumpers in the final 3:20. He scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half, enough to set up a 34-29 lead.
Romero Osby, OU's leading scorer coming in, got it going after the break. He scored over 6-11 Dejan Kravic. He scored on a putback. He scored off Buddy Hield's feed. He scored at the foul line.
Osby's burst in the first five minutes of the second half helped OU build a 45-35 lead. Then it was Hield's turn.
In a four-minute stretch, the freshman guard hit a pair of free throws after blocking a Texas Tech shot; drove and shoveled to Osby for a three-point-play; nailed a 3-pointer off an inbound, and soared for a layup after stealing Tech's inbound.
The Sooners led 55-42 after Hield was done. They brought the result home behind Cameron Clark's three baskets over the final 6:46.
Osby closed with 17 points and six rebounds. Hield had 16 points and seven boards. Fitzgerald scored 12 on 5-of-7 shooting. Clark made 5-of-6 and finished with 10. Guard Steven Pledger added 11 points.
"Different guys at different times have stepped up," coach Lon Kruger said after the Sooners won their fifth straight to move to 12-3 overall and 3-0 in the Big 12 Conference. "Balanced scoring has been a trademark of this group to this point. That's great. Defensively, it's harder to sit on one or two scorers.
"Guys really don't care who scores. They move the ball well. We need to continue that."
It wasn't just balanced scoring that won Wednesday's game in front of 4,521 Lloyd Noble Center fans. It was a balanced stat sheet.
Fitzgerald was OU's only dependable shooter in the first half, but the Sooners kept their lead by grabbing 20 rebounds, 10 on the offensive glass.
Outside shooting was a problem throughout - OU finished 3-of-11 from 3-point range - but the Sooners compensated by making 22-of-26 from the free throw line. Hield went 7-of-7.
If the Sooners weren't always pretty, they were reliable. They had 13 assists and just nine turnovers, in contrast to Tech's 14 turnovers and nine assists.
Kravic gave the Red Raiders (8-7, 1-3) a 20-point, nine-rebound effort, but the Red Raiders didn't have a whole lot of firepower aside from him.
They didn't have OU's depth, and that made the difference.
"Drew kind of carried us through the first half. He had a great stretch," Kruger said. "Then 'Ro' came out in the second half and got off to a great start. We moved the ball and got Buddy involved in a lot of plays.
"It was a good win, one we needed to protect our homecourt and to keep moving forward."
At Kansas State
3 p.m. Saturday
Original Print Headline: Improved depth lifts Sooners past Tech
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Oklahoma's Buddy Hield celebrates as he runs up the floor during Wednesday's game against Texas Tech. BRYAN TERRY / The Oklahoman
Oklahoma's Romero Osby is fouled by Texas Tech's Jordan Tolbert during Wednesday's game in Norman. BRYAN TERRY / The Oklahoman