Men's Basketball: Oklahoma
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Monday, February 25, 2013
2/25/13 at 6:30 AM
18-8 overall, 9-5 Big 12
with Steven Pledger
Hometown: Chesapeake, Va.
As recently as Oklahoma's Feb. 11 victory over TCU, observers were trying to figure out Pledger's senior slump. At the time, he had hit the 20-point mark just once all season, while falling short of 10 in nine games. Well, the questions have since stopped. Pledger has averaged 20 points over his last three outings, and is shooting 52 percent beyond the 3-point arc (12-of-23).
What got you going again?
I've been getting in the gym a lot more, doing a lot more things, talking to my dad about different mechanical issues I've been having with my shot. I've been coming in here fixing them and it shows.
Explain the mechanical issues.
I had to slow my hands down. I was trying to be too quick with my shot, things like that. My dad told me to slow my hands down, slow my feet down and everything will take care of itself.
Did you make a mental adjustment as well?
My approach changed. I'm more focused on every shot. It sounds strange, but me saying I'm more focused means I'm not thinking too much before I shoot. I'm just letting it go. I've been shooting it so long I should know how it feels.
The Sooners gained their first 2-0 week since the first half of January, and what a time to get it. Wednesday night, they shot 53 percent to pull away from Texas Tech 86-71. Saturday back home in Norman, OU raced to an 11-4 lead in the opening three minutes and cruised to a 90-76 victory over Baylor. That kept the Sooners tied for fourth place in the Big 12 Conference standings with Iowa State.
The week ahead
Wednesday: at Texas, 8 p.m.
Saturday: vs. Iowa State, 12:30 p.m.
OU will be favored to make it four straight victories. Texas had hoped the recent return of guard Myck Kabongo would light a spark, but the Longhorns are just 2-2 with him in the lineup. After losing to Kansas State Saturday night, coach Rick Barnes said of the rest of the season: "If guys check out, decisions will be made." Iowa State is playing much better than Texas. Still, the Cyclones are 2-5 in Big 12 road games, and the Lloyd Noble Center has been hard on visiting teams this season.
The big picture
Vroom vroom Grooms
OU's point totals this month (in chronological order): 50, 64, 72, 75, 79, 86 and 90. Sam Grooms' playing time (by minutes) over that same period: 12, 15, 10, 14, 35, 30, 30. Coach Lon Kruger says the offensive pick-up has been a product of confidence. Well, yes. But it's also a product of Grooms' takeover of the point guard position, and the way he has steadied the team.
Grooms has joined fellow seniors Pledger and Romero Osby to carry the Sooners through the middle of the month. Pledger sports that 20-point average over his last three games. Grooms has 53 points over his last three, compared to a total of 54 over his first 22. Osby went for 18 points and 15 rebounds at Oklahoma State, 21 and nine at Texas Tech, and 17 and eight against Baylor.
On track to dance
The Sooners are 18-8 overall and 9-5 in conference. Their RPI remains in the top 20. They have surged to four wins in their last five games. Everything checks out on their NCAA Tournament resume. It won't hurt to finish against three of the four worst teams in the league. OU can still conceivably play its way out of the at-large discussion, but that will take a monumental collapse over the next three weeks.
Oklahoma guard Steven Pledger fouls Baylor guard Gary Franklin as he shoots in the second half of their game in Norman on Saturday. Oklahoma won 90-76. SUE OGROCKI / Associated Press