|No. 5 seed Oklahoma (23-9, 12-6) vs. No. 12 seed North Dakota State (25-6, 12-2)
|Date & Tip Time||Thursday, March 20 at 6:27 p.m. CT|
|Location||Spokane, Wash. | Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena|
|Radio||Sooner Radio Network
KRXO 107.7 FM, KOKC 1520 AM in Oklahoma City
KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa
|Game Info||Game Notes (PDF)|
Making its 28th NCAA Tournament appearance and second straight under third-year head coach Lon Kruger, No. 21/20 Oklahoma (23-9 overall, 12-6 Big 12) enters Thursday’s second-round game against North Dakota State (25-6 overall, 12-2 Summit League) as the West Region’s No. 5 seed. The contest will be played at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena in Spokane, Wash., and will start at approximately 6:27 p.m. CT. North Dakota State is the region’s No. 12 seed.
Should it advance to the round of 32, Oklahoma will play Saturday against the winner of Thursday’s San Diego State (No. 4 seed) versus New Mexico State (No. 13 seed) game. The Aztecs sport a 29-4 record while the Aggies are 26-9. Also in Spokane (participating in the East Region) are No. 4 seed Michigan State, No. 5 seed Cincinnati, No. 12 seed Harvard and No. 13 seed Delaware.
All of OU’s NCAA Tournament games will air on the Sooner Radio Network (KRXO 107.7 FM/KOKC AM 1520 in Oklahoma City; KTBZ AM 1430 in Tulsa) with Toby Rowland (play-by-play) and Mike Houck (analyst) calling the action. Thursday’s game will be televised nationally by truTV with Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb and Jaime Maggio announcing. It will also air on the WestwoodOne/NCAA Radio Network with Ted Robinson and P.J. Carlesimo on the call.
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KRUGER AND THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
• With last year’s berth, Lon Kruger became the first head coach in history to take five Division I programs to the NCAA Tournament (Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV and Oklahoma). He has now taken each of those five schools to at least two NCAA Tournaments. Coaches who have taken four programs to the Big Dance are current mentors John Beilein, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith, and former head men Gene Bartow, Lefty Driesell, Jim Harrick, Tom Penders and Eddie Sutton.
• This marks Kruger’s 15th NCAA Tournament appearance as a head coach and sixth in the last eight seasons. He owns a 14-14 record and is 8-6 in opening-round games (his teams have won five of their last eight tournament openers). In his last coaching stop at UNLV, Kruger took the Runnin’ Rebels to the NCAA Tournament in four of his final five seasons there.
• Kruger is one three coaches to ever direct four programs to at least one NCAA Tournament win. The others are Harrick and Sutton. No coach has ever won at least one NCAA Tournament game at five different schools.
• Kruger has coached three programs to the Sweet 16 or beyond (only Pitino, Smith, John Calipari and Bill Self have also done it). He took Kansas State to the 1988 Elite Eight, Florida to the 1994 Final Four and UNLV to the 2007 Sweet 16.
• Kruger participated in the 1972 and ’73 NCAA Tournaments as a player at Kansas State and helped the Wildcats to regional final (Elite Eight) appearances both seasons. K-State went 1-1 in 1972 when Kruger was the Big Eight sophomore of the year (beat Texas 66-55 before losing 72-65 to Louisville). The Wildcats again went 1-1 in 1973 when Kruger was the Big Eight player of the year (beat Louisiana-Lafayette 66-63 before falling 92-72 to Memphis).
MASTER OF THE TURNAROUND
Taking a truly unique career path, OU head coach Lon Kruger has positioned himself as perhaps the greatest change agent in college basketball history. What makes Kruger’s 500-plus career wins and NCAA Tournament trips with five different programs even more impressive than they may first seem is the condition of the six programs when they hired him and the rebuilding job he faced at each.
In the year before his arrival as head coach at Texas-Pan American, Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV and Oklahoma, the schools combined for a 78-99 record (.441). Kruger’s teams went a combined 92-89 (.508) in his first year at those schools, 117-72 (.619) in his second year, 114-73 (.610) in his third year and 115-49 (.697) in his fourth season. He directed all six programs to 20-win campaigns and took each of the last five to the NCAA Tournament or NIT by his second year. Here’s a look at what Kruger inherited at all six of his head coaching stops and the turnaround job he performed at each:
• TEXAS-PAN AMERICAN – Inherited a 5-20 team for his first head coaching position and by his fourth (and final) year led UTPA to a 20-12 record.
• KANSAS STATE – Hired by his alma mater after the Wildcats had not been to NCAA Tournament in four seasons, he coached all four of his K-State squads to the Big Dance. His second squad went 25-9 and advanced to the Elite Eight.
• FLORIDA – Inherited a seven-win team (program was also facing an FBI and NCAA probe) and led the Gators to four postseason appearances in his six seasons, including a Final Four trip in his fourth year (team finished 29-8).
• ILLINOIS – Took over an Illini program under NCAA sanctions and that had not won an NCAA Tournament game in seven years. Guided it to the second round of the event in three of his four seasons (all three of those teams won at least 22 games).
• UNLV – Inherited a program on NCAA probation and that had been to the NCAA Tournament just twice (no wins) in the previous 13 years. Took the Runnin’ Rebels to the NCAA Tourney four times in his final five seasons, including the Sweet 16 in his third year when they went 30-7.
• OKLAHOMA – Took command of a program that had gone a combined 27-36 the previous two seasons and in his second year posted a 20-12 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance with a record fifth school. Kruger is 58-37 in his third season (23-9 this year).
KRUGER NAMED AP BIG 12 COACH OF THE YEAR
Recognized for the job he’s done in leading Oklahoma to a 23-9 overall record and a second-place finish in the conference, Lon Kruger was named the 2014 AP Big 12 Coach of the Year. In his third season with the Sooners, Kruger took an OU team that lost 68 percent of its scoring from last season’s 20-12 squad and directed it to a 12-6 Big 12 mark. The Sooners were picked in a tie for fifth in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll.
“This award is very obviously a reflection of how well our guys have played, the progress they’ve made and the strong finish they had to the regular season,” said Kruger. “Now the challenge is to continue to get better and finish strong in the postseason.”
HIELD HEADLINES OU INDIVIDUAL BIG 12 PLAYER HONORS
Four Sooners were honored with All-Big 12 awards, as chosen by the league’s head coaches. Sophomore guard Buddy Hield was named a second-team All-Big 12 selection, senior forward Cameron Clark was a third-team pick and sophomore forward Ryan Spangler was an honorable mention choice. Senior forward Tyler Neal was named co-sixth man of the year (with Oklahoma State’s Phil Forte).
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
• After averaging 70.6 points per game last season, this year’s Sooners are averaging 82.2 points to rank seventh nationally out of 345 teams. The last time OU averaged more points per game for an entire season was in 1993-94 (87.4 ppg in Billy Tubbs’ last year as head coach; see chart to right). OU has scored at least 80 points 18 times this year after doing it 17 times the previous three years combined.
• Oklahoma is the only Big 12 team and one of just eight squads in the country to start the same lineup every game this season. Those five players are all averaging at least 9.8 points per contest (Buddy Hield 16.8, Cameron Clark 15.3, Isaiah Cousins 10.8, Jordan Woodard 10.3 and Ryan Spangler 9.8). The quintet has accounted for 77 percent of the team’s points on the year.
• Sophomore forward Ryan Spangler lives approximately 20 miles from the OU campus but spent the 2011-12 season in Spokane, Wash., as a member of the Gonzaga basketball team. He averaged 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds in 6.6 minutes a game there as a freshman before transferring to OU. He played in two NCAA Tournament games (finished with four points and eight rebounds in first-round contest against West Virginia).
• OU’s 23 regular season wins tied for its fourth most in the 18-year history of the Big 12. OU also had 23 regular season wins in 2000-01 and 2004-05. The only seasons that the Sooners racked up more regular season wins in the Big 12 era were 1999-00 (24) and 2001-02 (24) under Kelvin Sampson and 2008-09 (27) under Jeff Capel.
• At 9-5, Oklahoma had the best regular season record away from home of any Big 12 team this season (OU went 5-4 in true road games and 4-1 at neutral sites). The Sooners went 5-4 in Big 12 road play after going a combined 5-21 the previous three years. Hield averaged 19.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in Big 12 road play while shooting .512 from the field and .467 from long range (35-for-75).
SOONERS AIDED BY STELLAR 3-POINT SHOOTING
• Oklahoma leads the Big 12 with its 8.5 3-pointers per game, the Sooners’ highest average since 1998-99 (8.6). In conference play, OU averaged 9.2 makes a contest, the second most by any Big 12 team over the last seven seasons (Iowa State averaged 10.6 makes in league play last season).
• The Sooners’ 12 games of at least 10 3-point makes are their most in 14 years (also 12 games of double-digit 3-pointers in 1999-00). For perspective, OU had six such games the previous three years combined. The team is 11-1 this year when making at least 10 treys.
• OU has made at least 10 treys in seven of the last nine games (averaging 10.6 in those nine) and has outscored its foes in those nine contests 285-162 from behind the arc (average of +13.7 points per game). Over the last four games, the Sooners outscored Texas, West Virginia, TCU and Baylor 141-54 from deep (average of +21.8 points per contest).
• OU is the only Big 12 team with six players who have each made at least 25 3-pointers this year. Buddy Hield leads OU with 89 treys and is followed by Frank Booker (41), Cameron Clark (34), Isaiah Cousins (34), Tyler Neal (32) and Jordan Woodard (25). Iowa State has five players who have made at least 25 3-pointers while Baylor and West Virginia have four. Every other team has three or fewer players who have made 25.
OKLAHOMA AGAINST THE NCAA FIELD
• The Sooners played 16 games against 2014 NCAA Tournament teams and went 10-6. The wins came against No. 3 seed Iowa State, No. 6 seed Baylor (twice), No. 7 seed Texas (twice), No. 9 seed Oklahoma State (twice), No. 9 seed Kansas State, No. 13 seed Tulsa and No. 14 seed Mercer. The losses came to No. 2 seed Kansas (twice), No. 4 seed Michigan State, Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas State.
• Both Baylor and Oklahoma State are in the West Region with OU. The Sooners could meet OSU in the regional semifinals, while the Bears would be a regional final foe.
OU VERSUS POSSIBLE SPOKANE OPPONENTS
• Oklahoma has never met North Dakota State in men’s basketball.
• OU is 3-1 all-time against San Diego State. The Sooners won the first meeting 92-57 on Dec. 7, 1973, in the Creighton Cage Classic in Omaha, Neb. Just 29 days later (Jan. 5), the Sooners posted a 91-66 home victory over the Aztecs. Adams set a still-standing OU record by going 11-for-11 from the field and finished with 27 points and 16 boards. The following season, Oklahoma escaped with a 79-74 Jan. 2 overtime win at San Diego State. In last year’s NCAA Tournament second round in Philadelphia, Pa., No. 7 seed San Diego State claimed a 70-55 win over No. 10 seed OU (box score on page 22 of these notes). The Sooners led 33-31 at halftime but were outscored 39-22 after the break. Romero Osby paced OU with 22 points and eight rebounds.
• In their lone meeting against New Mexico State, the Sooners posted a 57-52 win on Dec. 22, 1958. The game was played in Norman.
• Senior Tyler Neal and junior D.J. Bennett were named to this year’s Big 12 All-Academic Team. Neal was a first-team honoree (recognized for his 4.0 GPA) while Bennett earned second-team acclaim. It was the third honor for Neal (second as a first-teamer).
• This season marks the first since 2009-10 that Oklahoma has been ranked in the AP or USA Today Coaches Top 25 Polls. OU has appeared in seven AP polls this season and in eight coaches polls. OU made its season debut in the AP poll Jan. 13, its first appearance in either poll since Nov. 23, 2009. It is ranked No. 21 in this week’s AP poll and No. 20 in the coaches version.
• This marks Oklahoma’s second straight 20-win campaign (went 20-12 last year) after registering 15 or fewer wins each of the previous three seasons. OU has won at least 20 games 26 times in the last 33 seasons. Lon Kruger has won 20 or more games 14 times (seven times in the last eight years).
• The Sooners shot better from the free throw line than their opponent in 14 of 18 Big 12 games.
• In Big 12 play, Oklahoma led the league in free throw percentage (.772), 3-point field goal percentage (.383), 3-pointers per game (9.2) and defensive rebound percentage (.708). It ranked second in scoring offense (79.0 ppg), scoring margin (+4.6 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.3).
• Sophomore forward Ryan Spangler has recorded 15 double-digit rebounding games. Last year’s entire roster combined for seven.
• Last year, the OU foursome of Cameron Clark (1-for-1), Isaiah Cousins (10-for-40; .250), Buddy Hield (19-for-80; .238) and Tyler Neal (6-for-23; .261) combined to go 36-for-144 (.250) from 3-point range. This year they have teamed to go 189-for-469 (.403). Clark is 34-for-80 (.425), Cousins is 34-for-89 (.382), Hield is 89-for-224 (.397) and Neal is 32-for-76 (.421).
• Freshman Jordan Woodard holds the OU freshman record with 141 free throw makes and needs just five assists to tie the school’s freshman standard in that category (Tommy Mason-Griffin [2009-10] holds the record with 154). Woodard is averaging 10.3 points and 4.7 assists (leads all Big 12 freshmen and ranks sixth overall) while ranking fifth in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2).