Dec. 17, 2011
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) --The Sooners needed a comeback to continue what's been a remarkable bounce-back season. They needed Steven Pledger to bail them out, too.
Pledger had a game-high 31 points and Oklahoma beat Houston 79-74 Saturday at the Chesapeake Arena in the first game of the All College Classic.
Pledger was 10 for 13 from the field, including 4 for 5 from 3-point range, rendering an off night from the Sooners' inside tandem of Andrew Fitzgerald and Romero Osby irrelevant. The two combined to go just 6 for 27 from the floor for a combined 15 points.
"Pledger was terrific all night long," said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger. "We played off of him all night."
Pledger's marksmanship on the basket continued a trend of hot shooting for Oklahoma. Coming into Saturday's game, Oklahoma was making more than 50 percent of its 3-pointers. Against Houston, the Sooners connected on 6 of 10 from 3-point range.
Cameron Clark had 14 points for Oklahoma, and Fitzgerald and Sam Grooms added 10 apiece. Pledger hauled in a career-high 10 rebounds, earning his first-career double-double. He also made all seven of his free throws.
The Sooners shot just 40.5 percent in the first half, but made 5 of 8 3-pointers. Oklahoma (8-1) helped itself by taking care of the basketball, relinquishing only nine turnovers.
Houston (4-5), which has lost five of its last six games by a combined total of 12 points, was led in scoring by Jonathon Simmons with 20 points.
Oklahoma is off to its best start since the 2008-2009 season. After consecutive losing seasons the past two years, Oklahoma has improved drastically under Kruger, who's in his first season as head coach.
Houston opened the second half on a 12-0 run and led by nine with 15:14 left, but the Sooners scored the next seven points to get back in the game and stage a comeback.
"Adversity tells you a lot," Grooms said. "We were down nine and I think that was the best thing for us. When you have games that are close, it shows a lot about teams and chemistry and how we trust each other. Rallying shows a lot."
Pledger's jumper with 5:02 left gave OU the lead permanently, 68-67.
"(Pledger) found open spots and made shots tonight," Grooms said. "I was amazed for a while. I'm happy for him."
Houston coach James Dickey made his return to the state of Oklahoma. Dickey was an assistant at Oklahoma State under coach Eddie Sutton for six seasons.
"We just have to get better," Dickey said. "We have a nine-point lead and turn it over three straight times. We didn't respond."
The win was the closest of the season for the Sooners since a season-opening victory over Idaho State. It was also the first win for the Sooners at the All College Classic since 2008.
Dickey was impressed with the breakout performance of Pledger.
"He makes it look effortless," Dickey said. "Smooth, smart, strong; just a terrific player."