OU seniors fighting for a postseason bid
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Saturday, February 23, 2013
2/23/13 at 7:39 AM
NORMAN - The Oklahoma Sooners huddled in a hallway leading back out to Texas Tech's basketball court last Wednesday night. They were halfway to a crucial late-February road win, but there were still 20 minutes to take care of.
So Romero Osby spoke up.
"It's gotta be more important to us," the senior forward commanded to his teammates.
Osby went out and scored 13 second-half points. Senior guard Steven Pledger scored 10. Senior point guard Sam Grooms scored nine. The Sooners pulled away 86-71, leaving the impression that it is certainly important to their upperclassmen.
"We understand that it's crunch time," Grooms said on behalf of Osby, Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald, the fourth senior in OU's eight-man rotation. "We've only got a few games left, and we have a chance to do something special this year, something we haven't done the last couple years.
"With us being seniors and there not being another day after this year, we want to lead, so we can say we started the tradition again."
Grooms, Osby and Pledger are expected to lead the way again Saturday at 4 p.m., when Baylor comes to Norman. They have done so in each of OU's past two games, averaging 15, 19.5 and 20 points respectively.
The way the Sooners have shared big moments all season, this could simply be happenstance.
"No, it's a concerted effort," Pledger said after scoring a team-high 22 at Tech. "It's what we need to do to get to the next phase of the season."
That being the postseason, a phase Pledger hasn't reached in his three-plus years at OU. He talked about overcoming that stigma back in October as the Sooners started practice.
"We're definitely in position to do exactly what I talked about," Pledger said. "So I'm trying to go out and do everything I can to help the team."
The same for Osby and Grooms. They're completing their second seasons at OU, not their fourth. Osby experienced the NCAA with Mississippi State in 2009, but he scored just three points in 12 minutes of a first-round loss to Washington.
The motivation is obvious for them all.
"They've talked about it since last spring," OU coach Lon Kruger said of his senior class. "That's one of the reasons they've been so focused and worked so hard consistently and practiced great. They want their legacy to say something other than having just been here."
It's a luxury when a coach's most experienced, most mature players are also his hungriest. It's a luxury, in today's vagabond world of college basketball, having that many seniors to begin with.
"It's nice to have guys that have been here and gone through tough battles," Osby said.
Losing records. Sparse support. A coaching change. An NCAA investigation.
Emerge from something like that with a chance to flip the script before leaving? OU's seniors do not take that for granted. It is visible by their production of late, and their leadership.
"It's seniors who have that sense of urgency coming down the stretch," Osby said, "and wanting to make it to the NCAA Tournament."
Oklahoma up next
Vs. Baylor 4 p.m. Saturday
TV: ESPNU-253 Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430, KITO fm96.1
Original Print Headline: OU seniors fighting for postseason
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Oklahoma's Sam Grooms (1) drives past Texas Tech's Josh Gray, Wednesday. The Sooners won 86-71. Grooms along with Romero Osby and Steven Pledger are expected to lead the way against Baylor today. STEPHEN SPILLMAN/The Avalanche-Journal/Associated Press