OU's strong recovery crushes Iowa State
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Sunday, March 03, 2013
3/03/13 at 7:09 AM
Related stories: John Klein: OU’s bounce-back effort helps NCAA hopes.
OU basketball notebook: 34 in a row.
NORMAN - It was torture, but Sam Grooms pushed through it. Then he started over and pushed through it again.
Then he went back and did it again.
The Oklahoma point guard returned home from his team's midweek meltdown at Texas, and watched the whole thing "three of four times." All those turnovers, bad fouls and bad shots that contributed to Texas' 22-point rally.
All alone at home.
"I would watch and get to the point where we'd turn it over, and I'd turn it off and get mad," Grooms said. "And then I'd be like, 'I can't do that. I've gotta finish watching.' I'd get through two more possessions and turn it off again, before turning it back on.
"I was livid."
By the time Saturday's game against Iowa State rolled around ...
"I had a lot to prove," he said.
The most driven player on a motivated team, Grooms led the Sooners to an 86-69 hammering of Iowa State. He managed 19 points, six assists and just one turnover while conducting his offense in 31 minutes of play.
That made the most difference in what was supposed to be a ridiculously competitive game between two teams with nearly identical records and NCAA Tournament hopes. Both teams needed to show something, OU after collapsing at Texas and Iowa State after having victory snatched away against Kansas last Monday. The Cylcones (19-10, 9-7) didn't come out so hot.
"We didn't have it," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "It's really the first time all year where we've gotten it absolutely taken to us, where we got our butts kicked."
Grooms took the first swing. Thirty seconds after tipoff, Iowa State's Korie Lucious left him for an open 18-footer. Swish. The Sooners led 2-0. They never trailed from there.
Grooms fed Steven Pledger coming off a curl, and Pledger's 3 made it 9-2 at the first timeout. Iowa State came back out, left Grooms alone again and paid again. When Grooms hit two more back-to-back perimeter shots with five minutes left in the half, the Cyclones changed tactics.
We'll pick up Grooms, in full court, they decided, like Texas pressured him Wednesday night. Grooms helped the Sooners (19-9, 10-6) break it once, and then again, when Grooms took Lucious to the baskett and scored to make it 37-23. So much for the press.
The Cyclones closed to within 37-28, but Grooms zipped a 3-pointer five seconds before halftime to swing the momentum back OU's direction. The second half was a matter of OU making 30 straight free throws to finish an NCAA record-tying 34-of-34.
Someone asked Hoiberg in postgame about that, and the difference between Saturday's game and the 83-64 spanking Iowa State administered OU Feb. 4 in Ames.
"Our gameplan was similar," the coach said. "Grooms stepped up and hit shots against us. Give the kid credit for stepping up with confidence and knocking those down."
It didn't happen in Ames, where Grooms went 1-of-3 for two points. It didn't happen at Texas Wednesday, as Grooms missed all four of his shots and turned the ball over four times.
But it had happened in between. Grooms' emergence was a big reason for OU's four-wins-in-five-games stretch heading to Austin. All he needed was confidence he could re-emerge. Teammates helped restore that. Coaches gave him some help by refining OU's press offense the past two days in practice.
"It's not just the guy with the ball. It's also receivers moving and being available," coach Lon Kruger said. "A lot of the focus is on Sam because he has the ball, but a lot of other people are responsible."
The practice paid off Saturday. OU had 17 assists and just five turnovers.
All that remained was motivation. Grooms supplied that by digesting Wednesday's debacle.
Saturday afternoon, Grooms came off the court shaking hands, posing for pictures and hearing one "Great game!" after another. His mom had seen it all, having traveled from Greensboro, N.C., to see her son honored with OU's other four seniors in pregame.
Quite a change over three days' time.
"I'm thankful," Grooms said. "I wanted to come out here and play as hard as I could and show that I could bounce back. This is the real way Sam plays."
OU up next
Vs. West Virginia 8 p.m. Wednesday
TV: ESPN2-26 Radio: KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Strong recovery
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Oklahoma's Sam Grooms goes for a layup between Iowa State's Chris Babb (left), Georges Niang (center) and Korie Lucious during Saturday's game in Norman. STEVE SISNEY/The Oklahoman