Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

March 3, 2013

Sooners breeze past Iowa State

NORMAN — There was no exact moment when Oklahoma officially stopped thinking about the win that got away three days ago and focused on the one it had to get Saturday.

It could have been when the Sooners returned to the practice gym Thursday, or after an intense practice Friday. They might have even waited until Saturday.

The when was superseded by the how after Saturday’s 86-69 rout of Iowa State at Lloyd Noble Center.

“Everyone’s attitude was good and everyone was focused even though we were still feeling the after-effects of the Texas loss. We still moved on and we were ready to play today,” OU forward Romero Osby said.

The Sooners (19-9, 10-6 Big 12) put forth a dominant performance in a game that had major postseason implications. The win put OU in the driver’s seat for a finish of no worse than fourth in the Big 12 standings.

OU coach Lon Kruger never doubted the Sooners would bounce back. His faith in Osby and the rest of his seniors has been validated throughout the season.

“They’ve done a good job all year of focusing on the next game. That’s a tribute to the leadership of Ro and the other guys. I thought Friday’s practice was really sharp, really crisp,” Kruger said. “Players get over it more quickly than fans and coaches do.”

The Sooners played with no hesitation and alleviated any stress Wednesday’s loss at Texas might have put on OU’s NCAA Tournament hopes. The Cyclones (19-10, 9-7 ) were the team dealing with those Saturday evening.

OU also avenged one of its most disappointing performances of the season in the process.

Four weeks ago, the Cyclones whipped the Sooners by 19 in Ames, Iowa. The Sooners were never really in that game. Iowa State found out what that felt like Saturday.

Osby scored 22 points while Sam Grooms pumped in 19 and Steven Pledger added 14. Andrew Fitzgerald added 10 to give all four of the Sooners’ suited-up seniors double-digit scoring performances on their senior day.

They were honored, along with injured senior Casey Arent and their families, in a pregame ceremony. What followed was a dominant performance.

OU never trailed and built a 40-28 halftime lead. Iowa State cut  it to nine early in the second half, but OU answered with an 11-0 run.

With eight minutes to go, OU was in nearly the same spot it was in at Texas. It was up 17 instead of 22 points.

It was a topic of conversation as OU went to the bench for the under-eight-minutes TV timeout.

“It was definitely said. We’ve been here before,” Grooms said. “Let’s not act like we haven’t done this. Move forward and grow and mature as a team. I think that’s what we did today.”

The 8-1 run that pushed the Sooners’ lead to 78-54 with 4:21 left to play removed any doubt.

The Cyclones received 22 points from sixth man Tyrus McGee. The 6-foot-1 guard from Stringtown was 6 for 9 from 3-point range. Iowa State shot 43.1 percent, but never could stop the Sooners from getting to the basket or the foul line.

The Sooners shattered the program and Big 12 record by going 34 for 34 from the free-throw line. The mark actually tied the NCAA record.

However, it was a record no one really noticed until the game was over. The Sooners had tunnel vision on winning the game and little else. At least, that’s the way they played.

OU shot 44.2 percent (23 for 52) to continue a trend of playing well on the offensive end that dates all the way back to Iowa State game on Feb. 4. However, OU only had five turnovers on Saturday and 17 of their baskets came with an assist. Grooms led the way with six. Osby and Pledger both had three.

The pain of the Texas loss was gone by the time the clock ran out. The Sooners were already thinking about the future by then.

“Now we have this one and we need to get back to work,” Osby said.

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