Momentum key for OU men's basketball team
Before its win against Kansas State, Oklahoma was winless in league play. Then Mr. Momentum changed his address to 2900 South JenkinsAve. — Lloyd Noble Center.
Perhaps, he’ll join the Sooners on the road with a three-game winning streak in his luggage.
Oklahoma (12-5, 2-3) is in position to take sole possession of fifth place in the Big 12 at 3 p.m. Saturday, when it travels to College Station to play Texas A&M (10-7, 1-4).
The Aggies will no doubt try to harry the Sooners’ leading scorer, junior guard Steven Pledger. Pledger averages 17.3 points per game, which is good enough for fourth best in the league.
Junior point guard Sam Grooms said he’s noticed how Big 12 teams have chosen to defend Pledger as opposed to the Sooners’ nonconference opponents.
“In non-conference, we didn’t really play anybody who had a scout for us,” Grooms said. “And you can tell in conference they already know what he’s going to do. He’s working on it every day, before practice and after practice.”
Coach Lon Kruger doesn’t see opponents’ drawing up schemes to stop his leading scorer as a major issue. If the team plays well, they’re more likely to win games.
“Every team’s got a couple players that the other is game planning for, and [Pledger] is certainly one of our guys who the other teams plan for,” Kruger said. “He’s got to do some things, but also we have to have other guys do some things. We need other guys to be able to step up.”
Other guys have stepped up for Oklahoma in its last two games. Junior forward Andrew Fitzgerald has scored double digits in 12 consecutive games, and junior forward Romero Osby’s team-high 8.3 boards per game is good enough for third best in the conference.
Junior guard Carl Blair, though, has contributed more with his court awareness than his scoring.
That is good enough in the eyes of his coaches. Blair is likely to start his third straight game against Texas A&M.
“I think Carl’s personality on the court has given us a lift on the court, his activity,” Kruger said.
Blair was the team’s primary point guard prior to the arrival of Grooms. But he has learned to do more with less court time.
He said he consulted his father about coming off the bench and how he should react to fewer minutes to start the season. Like any good father, Carl Blair Sr. gave his son great advice.
“He just told me just to be patient,” Blair said. “Really, just come in here and work hard every day, even in the times when I wasn’t getting a lot of time on the court during games. I try to be the first one here and the last one to leave, and that builds confidence for me.”
The Sooners’ confidence has been bolstered by Kruger and his staff. That might have something do with Kruger’s mantra since October.
“Every game, again like I said from the start, we’ll play every game like it’s a new battle,” Kruger said. “It’s a new challenge. We’ve got thirteen of those independent challenges left.”