Nov. 17, 2009
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- A heralded class of freshmen made their presence known in Oklahoma's season opener. Then it was time for their first lesson.
Willie Warren scored 24 points, Tony Crocker added 13 and the No. 17 Sooners notched the 1,500th win in the program's history by beating Louisiana-Monroe 72-61 on Tuesday night.
But coach Jeff Capel was disappointed in the second game for a group of newcomers featuring the first tandem of McDonald's All-Americans in school history.
"Sometimes when young people have success, they don't understand that you need to try to have sustained success," Capel said. "It can't just be one game with success and then you think you've arrived.
"And it's not just our young (players). It's everyone on our team. We have a long way to go as far as maturing."
The lack of maturity is to be expected for Oklahoma this season after the departure of national player of the year Blake Griffin and his older brother, Taylor, to the NBA. Half of the team's eight-man rotation is made up of freshmen, and Warren is only a sophomore.
"It's a great lesson for this team and especially our new guys to understand that you can't just turn it on. We aren't good enough to just turn it on," Capel said. "There are very few people in the world that are good enough to just turn it on--and usually guys that can and don't do it."
Oklahoma (2-0) struggled early with ULM's zone pressure, but eventually took the lead for good with a 9-0 run with about 14 minutes remaining.
Tony Hooper scored 17 points for the Warhawks (1-2) before fouling out with just under 5 minutes remaining. Rudy Turner had 12 points and Dynile Forbes 11. Forbes, who led the Warhawks with seven first-half points, had to sit out for 10 minutes after picking up his fourth foul early in the second half.
"I think the foul trouble hurt us all game. I guess I've got to do a better job of coaching our guys. It was 23 to 9 on fouls tonight. We've got to do a better job not fouling," ULM coach Orlando Early said.
"To go on the road and we shoot five free throws and they shoot 29--but again, I guess we put our hands on them and we fouled them. We've got to do better at that."
Ryan Wright hit a pair of free throws to put Oklahoma ahead 40-39 with 13:52 to play, and the Sooners took advantage of Hooper's brief rest to build on their lead. Freshman Steven Pledger hit a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to push the lead to eight before Hooper returned and immediately converted a three-point play.
Pledger answered with a 3 at the other end and Crocker added another off an inbound play with 3 seconds left on the shot clock to make it 53-42. Louisiana-Monroe never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
"We didn't come out with the energy that we need to come out with. For what reason, I don't know. It took us getting down and getting punched in the mouth for us to start finally punching back," Capel said.
Freshman Tiny Gallon had 10 rebounds, but the Sooners didn't get nearly as much out of their new recruits as in their season opener. In a 95-71 win against Mount St. Mary's on Saturday, Oklahoma's four freshmen combined for 64 points. They had 20 on Tuesday night.
Instead, Capel credited one of the few veterans--junior Cade Davis--with providing the burst of energy the Sooners needed to pull ahead.
"He's mature and he's into the team. We don't have everyone like that right now. We need everyone like that, and it may be me removing some guys that can't do that," Capel said.
Oklahoma scored the first five points of the game, but then yielded an 11-0 run sparked by three straight turnovers by Gallon, a McDonald's All-American. Forbes pushed ULM's lead to 16-8 with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 9:48 left in the first half.
By then, the Sooners had already committed eight turnovers.
"You practice the way you play, and we turned the ball over consistently the day before and it showed up today in the game," Warren said.
Oklahoma pulled back ahead on Warren's reverse layup that made it 23-22 with 1:37 left before halftime. The Warhawks, who added seven new players this season after back-to-back 10-win seasons, took their only lead of the second half on Jarvis Hill's double-pump layup from the right block that made it 39-38.
"We have to trust more. That's a big thing," Capel said. "Collectively as a group, I think some guys trust some guys but we have to trust each other all the time out there on the floor.
"That's part of the maturing process and the growing process."