Jan. 16, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma head men's basketball coach Lon Kruger came to Carl Blair last Friday and told Blair he wanted to put him back in the starting lineup.
Blair hadn't started since a season-opening win back on Nov. 11, but the junior guard was going to get the call Saturday against No. 18-ranked Kansas State.
Tough spot? Maybe. After all, Blair had started 22 games in a row last season and was expected to be in the same spot most of this year.
Saturday, Blair went out and made every one of his shots -- in warm-ups. Before the game. You know, the ones that don't count.
"I thought it was going to be great," Blair said. "But then I started pressing a little."
Blair went 1-for-8 shooting and finished with just five points. But here's the deal: The Sooners won 82-73 for their first Big 12 win of the year.
He also had three steals, five assists and no turnovers -- all good enough to help the Sooners get a win and likely get Blair a second consecutive start when OU takes on Texas Tech at 7 Tuesday night at the Lloyd Noble Center.
"The only thing that matters to me is winning," Blair said. "Of course, you want to start, but you want to make a difference when you're on the floor. We won. That's what matters. Keep moving forward."
While OU picked up a much-needed win, Blair continued moving forward. He earned the start after recording OU personal highs of 20 points, 10 rebounds and five steals in a loss at Oklahoma State on Jan. 9. And Blair has averaged 12 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.3 steals over his last three games. In that same span, he has just five turnovers, providing stability alongside fellow junior guard Sam Grooms and allowing for the Sooners to bring some scoring off the bench with sophomore Cameron Clark.
"I thought Carl did a good job," Kruger said. "The starting lineup could change but it was nice to see both of them do well."
And in his first game coming off the bench as a Sooner, Clark had 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
"I'm happy for him," Grooms said of Blair. "I always thought he had it in him. It's helped us out and it will give Cam a bigger push."
For now, it's given Blair and the Sooners a push, too.
"I just wanted to be comfortable out there," Blair said. "Coach told me I was going to be starting and to go out there and get the win."
- Andrew Gilman