|Tyler Neal is averaging 10.3 points the last three games|
|Oklahoma (7-1) vs. Houston (4-4)|
|Date & Tip Time||Saturday, Dec. 17, at 7:05 p.m. CT|
|Location||Oklahoma City, Okla. | Chesapeake Energy Arena|
|Radio|| Sooner Radio Network
KOKC 1520 AM in Oklahoma City
KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa
|Live Stats||SoonerSports.com GameTracker|
|Game Info||Game Notes (PDF)|
SATURDAY'S GAME BASICS
Oklahoma (7-1) plays in the All-College Classic for the 29th straight year when it meets Houston (4-4) Saturday at 7 p.m. CT at Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Sooners, winners of three straight, are coming off a 78-63 victory over Arkansas on Saturday. The Cougars haven't played since Dec. 6 when they lost 81-78 at Texas State. Saturday's contest will air on the Sooner Radio Network (KOKC AM 1520 in Oklahoma City; KTBZ AM 1430 in Tulsa; Sirius 137) with Toby Rowland and Mike Houck announcing. The game will be televised by ESPNU with Marc Kestecher and Doug Gottlieb calling the action.
Oklahoma entered the week ranked No. 8 nationally (out of 338 Division I teams) in rebounding margin (+9.8), No. 15 in 3-point field goal percentage (.419), No. 40 in scoring (78.1 ppg), No. 45 in scoring margin (+12.0) and No. 46 in free throw percentage (.735).
Only one OU team in last 16 seasons averaged more points for a season than the current average of 78.1 (78.7 in 2008-09).
The Sooners' 7-1 start is their second best in last eight seasons (surpassed only by the 12-0 start during Blake Griffin's sophomore year of 2008-09).
OU's wins over Sacramento State (by 29 points), Coppin State (27), Arkansas (15), Washington State (15) and Oral Roberts (14) represent those teams' largest margins of defeat of the year.
Since sustaining its only loss of the season to Saint Louis in the 76 Classic championship game on Nov. 27, Oklahoma has shot .532 from the field, .512 (22-for-43) from 3-point range and .782 (43-for-55) from the free throw line in double-digit wins over Sacramento State, Oral Roberts and Arkansas.
OU's top five scorers over the last three games are each shooting at least .522 from the field during the stretch. Junior guard Steven Pledger is averaging 18.0 points on .679 field goal and .600 (6-for-10) 3-point shooting.
Pledger has scored in double figures in all seven of his games and is shooting a team-high .577 from the field (ranks second nationally among guards) and .472 from 3-point range (ranks fourth in Big 12). He shot .386 from the field and .345 from long distance over his first two seasons combined. Pledger averaged 13.6 points per 40 minutes last season but is averaging 25.1 per 40 minutes this year. He ranks third in the Big 12 in scoring (17.9 ppg), sixth in treys per game (2.4) and eighth in steals (1.6 spg).
Junior forward Andrew Fitzgerald has made more field goals in each of the last three games than he did in any of OU's first five contests. He is averaging 15.3 points on .583 shooting over the last three games after averaging 8.4 points on .400 shooting over the first five.
The Sooners' pressure defense under new head coach Lon Kruger has boosted the team's offense through eight games. Opponents have averaged 15.5 turnovers, resulting in an average of 18.0 points per contest for OU on the other end of the floor. Foes haven't been as opportunistic, averaging 12.5 points off the Sooners' 13.5 turnovers per game.
OU has outboarded seven of its eight opponents and ranks No. 8 nationally with its +9.8 margin per contest despite not starting anyone taller than 6-8. Included was a +34 effort against Coppin State (61-27). The Sooners own a 123-87 offensive rebounding advantage on the year (despite shooting .465 to their opponents' .414 mark) and have scored 112 second-chance points to their foes' 70.
Junior forward Romero Osby leads the Big 12 with his 3.4 offensive rebounds per game and ranks fifth in the league with his 7.5 overall boards per outing. He is shooting .643 from the field during the team's three-game winning streak.
Since sophomore guard Calvin Newell left the team on Dec. 1, sophomore forward Tyler Neal has seen his minutes and production jump significantly. Neal is averaging 10.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists in an average of 22.0 minutes the last three games, and is shooting .529 from the field and .500 (7-for-14) from 3-point range. In OU's first five games -- before Newell announced he was transferring -- Neal averaged 5.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.4 assists in an average of 14.0 minutes. He shot .438 from the field.
After averaging 3.0 points on .167 (3-for-18) field goal shooting in OU's first two games, sophomore guard Cameron Clark has scored in double figures in five of the last six outings and is shooting .491 from the field during the stretch.
After starting 3-0, Houston has lost four of its last five games by a total of seven points (three of the losses came by a total of four points). The Cougars are coming off an 81-78 defeat at Texas State on Dec. 6 and also lost at home to Oakland (76-74), TCU (81-80) and LSU (59-58) in late November. Their signature win thus far was an 87-78 victory at Arkansas in the third game of the year.
Houston is shooting .473 from the field and .368 from 3-point range while holding opponents to respective .399 and .296 marks.
Sophomore forward Alandise Harris leads the Cougars with his 16.0 scoring average (shooting .568 from the field) and ranks second with his 6.5 rebounds per game. He has scored in double figures in all but one game and has three outings of at least 20 points.
Junior guard Jonathon Simmons is averaging 13.6 points (shooting .581) and 4.8 boards per game. He is coming off a 26-point outing at Texas State in which he went 8-for-11 from the field and 8-for-10 at the free throw line.
Junior forward Kirk Van Slyke comes off the bench to supply 11.6 points and 5.1 rebounds a contest. He is 21-for-22 (.955) at the foul line on the year.
Former Texas Tech head coach and Oklahoma State assistant James Dickey is in his second year as head coach at Houston and owns a 16-22 (.421) record there. He is in his 12th year overall and is 180-145 (.554).
Saturday's game will mark the third between Oklahoma and Houston, with each team owning a victory. The Sooners won the first meeting, 55-51, at Houston on Dec. 15, 1960. The most recent matchup came two seasons ago in the second round of the Great Alaska Shootout and resulted in a 100-93 Cougars win.
TWO YEARS AGO VS. THE COUGARS
Oklahoma got off to a blazing start in the second round of the Great Alaska Shootout two years ago and led 20-6 after six minutes thanks to five 3-pointers and solid zone defense. Houston cut the margin to five by halftime (52-47) and later used a 23-6 spurt to go ahead 90-75 in what wound up as a 100-93 win in Anchorage.
Kelvin Lewis (28) and Aubrey Coleman (27) combined for 55 points for a Houston squad that shot .583 from the field and .600 (6-for-10) from 3-point range after halftime. OU lost despite shooting .536 on the night and making 11 treys.
Guards Willie Warren (25) and Steven Pledger (23) combined for 48 OU points. Pledger, in his first career start, canned a then-career-high six 3-pointers and had 20 points by halftime.
OU committed 18 turnovers to Houston's seven and surrendered 17 offensive rebounds.
OU'S ALL-COLLEGE HISTORY
This year's All-College Classic marks the 34th such event for Oklahoma and the 29th straight. The Sooners own a 50-11 (.820) all-time record in the All-College and have claimed 24 championships. They have won 15 of their last 18 games in the event but have lost the last two (Cincinnati last season and UTEP two years ago). This marks the 11th consecutive year that the All-College features a "classic" or non-tournament format.
KRUGER IN THE ALL-COLLEGE
OU head coach Lon Kruger is making his second appearance in the All-College Classic. As head coach at Florida during the 1995-96 season, Kruger led the Gators to the All-College title with wins over Louisiana Tech (71-56) and Oklahoma (76-72 in overtime). The tournament was played at The Myriad, now called the Oklahoma City Convention Center.
SATURDAY'S ARKANSAS RECAP
Oklahoma fell behind 4-0 then went on a 22-3 run to go up by 15 eight minutes into the game in an eventual 78-63 home win over Arkansas on Saturday. OU's 37-25 halftime lead was whittled to six points (41-35) with 15:21 left but the Sooners answered with a 7-0 spurt to go back up by 13. The Razorbacks got no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
OU shot .520 from the floor, .500 (8-for-16) from 3-point range and .783 from the free throw line. Arkansas shot .345 from the field and .259 (7-for-27) from long distance.
Junior guard Steven Pledger led OU in scoring for the fourth time in his seven games with 22 points (19 after halftime). He was 9-for-12 from the field and 3-for-5 from 3-point range (8-for-8 and 2-for-2 in the second half).
Sophomore forward Tyler Neal subbed for fellow sophomore Cameron Clark (two fouls in first 1:25) and went on to post career highs of 18 points, four 3-pointers (on eight attempts) and four assists in a career-high-tying 28 minutes. He was 5-for-9 from the field and also pulled down five rebounds. Neal also drained all four of his free throw attempts to remain perfect on the year (12-for-12).
Celebrating his 21st birthday, junior forward Andrew Fitzgerald scored a season-high 17 points and pulled down a game-high eight rebounds in just 23 minutes. He scored all of his points and grabbed all but one of his rebounds in the first half (battled foul trouble after halftime). Fitzgerald made his first six field goal attempts and finished 7-for-11.
After averaging 17.0 points the previous two games, Clark went scoreless in 13 minutes (foul issues). He was 0-for-3 from the field.
Oklahoma committed 17 turnovers to Arkansas' 13, but OU posted a 19-10 advantage in points off turnovers. The Sooners also outrebounded the Razorbacks by 12 (38-26).
SOONER TIP INS
For the first time this season, Oklahoma received votes this week in one of the major top-25 polls (four votes in ESPN/USA Today poll).
OU has recorded 29 dunks in its eight games (3.6 average) and junior forward Romero Osby has 14 of them.
Osby (four) and fellow junior forward Andrew Fitzgerald (three) lead the Sooners in charges taken. The team total is 14.
Fitzgerald is averaging more rebounds per game this year than last year (5.8 to 5.0), despite averaging 6.4 fewer minutes per contest.
Twenty-seven of Osby's 60 rebounds (45 percent) have come on the offensive end.
Junior point guard Sam Grooms ranks third in the Big 12 with his 4.8 assists per game and fourth with his 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio.