Defense Strong in 73-59 Win vs. Oral Roberts

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
DECEMBER 08, 2011

(6-1, 0-0)
  1st 2nd F
 Oral Roberts 24 35 59
 Oklahoma 34 39 73
Stats | Notes | Quotes | Photos | Highlights | Postgame

(6-3, 0-0)
 Stat Comparison OU ORU
 Points 73 59
 FG Made-Attempted 27-54 22-60
 FG Percentage .500 .367
 3P Made/Attempted 3-7 1-15
 3P Percentage .429 .067
 FT Made-Attempted 16-20 14-19
 FT Percentage .800 .737
 Rebounds 38 31
 Turnovers 15 12
 Individual Leaders
 Stat  Oklahoma  ORU
 Points  Pledger (17)  Morrison (20)
 Rebounds  Clark (8)  2 players (6)
 Assists  Grooms (5)  3 players (2)
 Steals  3 players (2)  Craion (3)
 Blocks  Osby (2)  3 players (1)
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NORMAN, Okla. (AP)  Steven Pledger wants to become a steady scoring source for Oklahoma.

Pledger scored 17 points to continue the strong start to his season, Cameron Clark and Andrew Fitzgerald added 16 apiece and the Sooners snapped Oral Roberts' six-game winning streak by beating the Golden Eagles 73-59 on Thursday night.

Pledger is scoring 17 points per game this season — six more than his average last season — and has hit double digits in all six games he has played this season.

"That's the main thing I've been trying to keep myself doing is trying to be consistent every time, not just have a burst and then slouch, a burst and then slouch," said Pledger, who averaged a team-best 15.4 points in wins last season but only 7.4 in losses.

"That's not something that this team needs."

The Sooners (6-1) won their 11th straight game against their in-state rivals from Tulsa by almost the same score as last season. It was 73-60 in last season's meeting in Norman.

The Golden Eagles haven't beaten Oklahoma since 1977.

Fitzgerald, the team's top returning scorer, had 12 points in the first half as Oklahoma built a 10-point halftime lead and finished with his highest scoring output of the season.

Dominique Morrison scored 20 and Damen Bell-Holter finished with a season-best 16 points for Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles (6-3) shot a season-low 37 percent and went 1-for-15 from 3-point range.

"We had a lot of good shots, a lot of shots we should knock down and make," Morrison said. "We're 1-for-15 from 3. I bet from 2 feet in, we were 1-for-20 or something like that. We missed a lot of shots — 3s and 2-footers.

"Not taking anything away from their defense because they're a great defensive team, but those are shots we've got to make."

Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton called it "a game of missed opportunities" and estimated that his team missed 10 layups.

"A lot of it is toughness," Sutton said. "Some of it is mental toughness. On the road against a good team, have the confidence to step up and make shots, have the toughness to finish shots in traffic, and we didn't do that tonight."

It only gets tougher in the short term for the Golden Eagles, who also play their next three games on the road — including trips to No. 8 Xavier and No. 23 Gonzaga in the next 10 days.

Sutton said his team must get tougher or the score in those games "will be a lot worse than it was tonight."

"We understand what we're playing for this year, and that's to make the NCAA tournament," Sutton said. "I told them in the locker room that if we're going to reach our potential, then we have to become a tougher basketball team, both physically and mentally.

"We can win a bunch of games. ... If you're fortunate enough to reach the NCAA tournament, let's be honest: We're going to play somebody better than Oklahoma."

The upcoming stretch will be a good test of whether they can improve enough to be ready for that kind of challenge.

"You never want to start an away streak with a loss," Morrison said. "We're done with school. It's time to go to work. ... Anytime you have this many games, you just can't go on a losing streak. I've been here when we went on long losing streaks, and it just kills the team camaraderie. We don't need that right now."

ORU's starting backcourt of Roderick Pearson and Warren Niles combined for one point. Pearson fouled out in 15 minutes. Niles went scoreless, missing all six of his shots in 26 minutes.

Niles was averaging 12.8 points before being held to four against Southern Utah on Saturday and none against Oklahoma.

"I think he's down on himself a little bit," Sutton said. "I think he's lacking confidence, which he shouldn't. I tell him he's one of the best shooters we have. You can't worry about how many shots you've missed. You've got to think you're going to make the next four or five."

Reserve C.J. Washington scored six points during a 15-5 surge as Oklahoma pulled ahead to stay just after the midway point of the first half. Washington missed a baseline jumper and then put back the rebound to stretch the Sooners' advantage to 26-17.

The lead grew to 13 before Morrison brought Oral Roberts back, answering Pledger's three-point play with one of his own to start a 7-0 spurt for the Golden Eagles. His floater cut the Sooners' lead to 42-36, but the Golden Eagles then went more than 6 minutes without a basket.

Tyler Neal responded with a 3-pointer from the left wing to start a 12-3 run for the Sooners. Clark slammed down a Carl Blair alley-oop with two hands to make it 61-45 with 3:51 remaining and force Oral Roberts into scramble mode.

One year ago, Oklahoma was 3-5 in Jeff Capel's final season as coach. It's been a much smoother start in Lon Kruger's first season.

"The thing that they know and really believe is that we've got to get better," Kruger said. "As long as we maintain that balance of improving but realizing we've got a long way to go, then we'll become as good as we can become, and that's our goal."



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