Men's basketball: Sooners return home after five-game road trip
After narrowly escaping defeat against Oral Roberts, the OU men’s basketball team returns home after a five-game road trip to take on Northwestern State at 7 p.m. Friday at Lloyd Noble Center.
“We were fortunate to learn a lot from [the Oral Roberts game] and still have it be in the right column, so I feel good about that,” coach Lon Kruger said. “But we still have a lot of work to do.”
Wednesday night, the Sooners eked out a 63-62 win against the Golden Eagles in Tulsa, trailing the entire game until a pair of free throws from senior forward Romero Osby with 2:58 remaining gave OU a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“When they were up 10, I thought our guys did toughen up a little bit defensively and got some big stops,” Kruger said. “But I really thought ORU outplayed us for the most part.”
Three Sooners scored in double figures — Osby, junior forward Amath M’Baye and freshman guard Buddy Hield — and M’Baye led the team with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Hield scored all of his 11 points in the second half and sparked the Sooners’ comeback. He also was second on the team in rebounds with six.
With the win, OU is 4-0 in games decided by seven points or less — the other three coming against Texas-Arlington, UTEP and West Virginia.
“I feel our team has a great ability to show up in the clutch,” M’Baye said.
The Sooners’ record now stands at 5-1 with the only loss coming against No. 12 Gonzaga.
When OU takes the floor against Northwestern State on Friday night, it will have the opportunity to give Kruger career win No. 500. But earlier this week, Kruger said the looming milestone hadn’t even crossed his mind.
“It’s something that just kind of comes around when you do it awhile,” Kruger said. “These guys are making progress, that’s what is most important to us right now.”
Northwestern State is 3-2 and currently ranked fourth in the nation in points per game. The Demons are led by junior forward DeQuan Hicks, who has averaged 18 points and 6.8 rebounds per game — both team highs — and their only losses have come on the road against LSU and Texas A&M.
Friday also marks the Sooners’ first game at Lloyd Noble Center since their season opener against Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 11 — a game the Sooners won handily, 85-51.
“Most definitely (I’m excited to be back at home),” senior guard Steven Pledger said. “I haven’t been here in awhile, so it’ll be good.”