By JOHN SHINN
NORMAN — Terry Evans is no stranger to Oklahoma basketball. The Central Oklahoma coach played at OU from 1989-93 and remains the program’s all-time assist leader and a leader in 3-pointers made.
When the opportunity came to play an exhibition game against his alma mater, he didn’t care when or where.
“I guess you should be careful what you ask for sometimes,” Evans said.
The Sooners rolling to a 94-66 victory over the Bronchos wasn’t a surprise. Getting help from an energized crowd of 2,880 at McCasland Field House was what made OU’s final tune-up before the regular season begins seem energized.
“The atmosphere was different,” said OU forward Amath M’Baye, who finished with 11 points, five rebounds and four blocks. “The baskets were different. You had to get used to it in warm-ups. I think all the guys did pretty good with it.”
The difference was an enthusiastic crowd. OU probably would have drawn the same amount of fans if it had played at Lloyd Noble Center. But having less than 3,000 fans in a 12,000-seat arena makes everything seem dank.
Putting that same amount in McCasland Field House brings instant energy.
It took a while, but the Sooners fed off that. As he did in last Saturday’s exhibition opener against Washburn, OU coach Lon Kruger basically played two five-man units.
M’Baye, forward Romero Osby and guards Steven Pledger, Je’lon Hornbeak and Isaiah Cousins started. Guards Sam Grooms, Buddy Hield, Cameron Clark and forwards Andrew Fitzgerald and Tyler Neal came off the bench.
OU was lethargic in the opening minutes, but it was that bench crew that got things going.
Hield, who scored a game-high 19 points, wasted little time making an impact. In his first 20 seconds on the floor, Hield sank a 3-pointer and forced UCO’s Nic Combs into a turnover.
“Buddy is gonna bring that aggressiveness regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench,” Kruger said. “He’s playing well enough to be a guy that jumps in there as a starter. Buddy just wants to play and he’s gonna get his minutes. It’s nice to have that kinda lift coming off the bench for sure.
“He isn’t just doing it offensively. He’s doing it defensively, too. He’s as good an offensive rebounder as you’ll see. He’s very active.”
The activity wore down the Bronchos by the midway point in the first half. The Sooners only led by a point with 11:38 left in the first half. Then it went on a 27-4 run that was capped by a layup from Hield.
The Sooners shot 40.3 percent (27-for-67) and struggled from 3-point range, connecting on 7 of 23 attempts.
Defense was what Kruger sought with the regular season just five days away. OU held the Bronchos to 38.8 percent shooting (24-for-67). It also forced them into 22 turnovers.
Cal Andrews and Christian Huffman led the Bronchos with 11 points apiece.
It just took a little time to get warmed up and used to the surroundings.
“It’s always a little different coming into an (unfamiliar) gym,” Hornbeak said. “We didn’t really get to warm up here — shoot around here — like we normally do, but I feel like we shot the ball pretty well.”
The one thing OU did was soak up the ambiance. They’ve played a couple intrasquad scrimmages at McCasland Field House over the years, but Wednesday was the first game since 1975.
“It was a lot of fun. Everyone was around us, and you could hear them. I’m glad the crowd showed up,” M’Baye said. “It’s something I’d like to do again.”