OU snaps KSU’s win streak, 63-60

28 Jan

Lon Kruger had coached and won against his alma mater in the past, just never at Bramlage Coliseum. That changed Saturday night, when Oklahoma eked out a 63-60 victory over No. 22 Kansas State.

Steven Pledger scored 30 points to lift the Sooners to their second win over Kansas State this season. Cameron Clark added 11 points.

“The win is great, but much more important, I thought we showed a little more toughness, a little more fight, a little more competitiveness than we have,” Kruger said. “I’m really happy for our guys with the outcome.”

The Sooners’ lead oscillated between three points and one point as the teams traded free throws in the final minutes of the game. Rodney McGruder got a long 3-pointer off before the buzzer, but it was no good.

Kansas State turned the ball over 20 times and made just 3 of 17 attempts from beyond the arc. While coach Frank Martin credited Oklahoma’s defense, he also acknowledged the Wildcats’ struggles.

“They’re a physical team,” he said. “Defensively, we held our ground. Offensively, we didn’t.”

The Sooners took a 38-28 lead less than two minutes into the second half, but the Wildcats scored five straight baskets in a 12-2 run that culminated in back-to-back pull-up jumpers from McGruder to tie the game at 42.

“We’d been in a little bit of foul trouble all night,” Kruger said. “It made us play a little bit more zone there in the second half.”

A pair of free throws from Will Spradling gave the Wildcats a 44-42 lead midway through the second half. It was the first time Oklahoma had trailed since another Spradling bucket put Kansas State up 24-23 at the 3:44 mark of the first half.

After McGruder’s free throws gave Kansas State a 48-45 advantage, the Sooners went on a 10-3 run to take a 55-51 lead with 4 minutes to play.

Free throws from Jamar Samuels and a 3-pointer by McGruder pulled Kansas State to within 57-56 with less than 2 minutes remaining.

Two free throws by Pledger restored the Sooners’ three-point lead, but a slicing drive to the rim by Spradling got the Wildcats’ back within one with 30 seconds to play.

After Kansas State turned it over, Romero Osby swished two free throws to make it a 61-58 game with less than 10 seconds remaining. The Sooners fouled Jordan Henriquez on purpose and he made two free throws to get back within 61-60, but Sam Grooms answered with two foul shots of his own and McGruder’s 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim.

“If you want to compete for a conference championship, you can’t lose at home,” said Martin, who bemoaned his team missing out on a chance to put themselves in upper echelon of the Big 12.

“We had a great opportunity today to solidify ourselves at the top third of the league.”

The Wildcats led by as many as six points in the first half, but an 11-4 blitz by Oklahoma before halftime gave the Sooners a 34-28 lead going into the break. The Wildcats could not find an answer for Pledger, who scored 18 in the first 20 minutes.

The series of plays that inspired the late run by Oklahoma came 3 minutes before the break.

Carl Blair stole the ball and placed it perfectly for a soaring Clark to slam it and put the Sooners up 27-24. A stunningly similar alley-oop by Clark moments later gave Oklahoma a four-point lead with 1:30 to go until halftime.

A traditional three-point play by McGruder _ his second of the half _ got the Wildcats within one, but a pair of free throws by Osby and yet another bucket from Pledger gave his team a six-point lead after 20 minutes.

“Tonight I think you saw a team that wanted to win _ period,” Grooms said. “Just wanted to win, whatever we had to do, from boxing out, to rebounding, to talking on defense, just being a team.”

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