Playing first game at Lloyd Noble Center in 19 days, OU to face high-scoring Northwestern State at 7 p.m.
||Freshman guard Isaiah Cousins
Head coach Lon Kruger goes for career collegiate win No. 500 when Oklahoma hosts Northwestern State Friday at 7 p.m. CT at Lloyd Noble Center. Playing its fifth straight game away from home, OU improved to 5-1 Wednesday by winning 63-62 at Oral Roberts. The Sooners are No. 21 in the CSPSports.com RPI. Northwestern State, owner of a 3-2 record, is one of the nation's highest-scoring teams (88.2 ppg). The Demons are coming off a 78-65 loss at Texas A&M on Monday.
ON THE AIR
Friday's contest will air on the Sooner Radio Network (KOKC 1520 AM in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa) with Toby Rowland and Mike Houck announcing. The game will be televised by Sooner Sports TV (FOX College Sports Central) with Bob Carpenter and former Sooner Brent Price calling the action.
• Tickets are available for $10, $20 and $30 at the OU Athletics Ticket Office and online here. Lloyd Noble Center's north and east ticket windows will open at 5 p.m. on Friday.
• OU students may purchase a ticket for $10.
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
• An OU win on Friday would mark the 500th victory in the collegiate coaching career of Lon Kruger. In his 27th year on the college sidelines, Kruger ranks 18th on the list of winningest active coaches. He is looking to become the first coach to lead five college programs to the NCAA Tournament.
• Friday's game will mark just the second at Lloyd Noble Center this season and the first since OU's season-opening 85-51 win over ULM on Nov. 11. OU has already won as many games away from home this season (4-1 record) as it did all of last season (4-11 record).
• After posting a 4-5 record last season in games decided by seven points or fewer, Oklahoma is 4-0 under the circumstance this year.
• Northwestern State ranks fourth nationally in points per game (88.2). Among their five games, the Demons have posted point totals of 92, 95 and 118. Four players average between 12.8 and 18.0 points per contest.
• Oklahoma has won 35 straight non-conference home games and 93 of its last 95 such contests.
• The Sooners have exhibited a balanced offensive attack through six games, with six players averaging between 6.8 and 11.2 points per contest. Nine players average between 16.3 and 24.8 minutes per game. A Sooner has played at least 30 minutes in a game just three times this year (Amath M'Baye 32 vs. West Virginia, Steven Pledger 31 at UT Arlington and Romero Osby 30 vs. UTEP).
• OU returned its top six scorers and 88 percent of its scoring from last season, but newcomers rank second, fourth and sixth in scoring average. The team's four newcomers have accounted for 44 percent of the team's points (178 of 403).
• Oklahoma has outrebounded its opponents in all five wins (by an average of 8.0 per contest). In its loss to Gonzaga, OU was outboarded by 27 (51-24).
• After being outscored by 261 points from 3-point range last season (average of 8.4 points per game), the Sooners are outscoring their opponents by 4.0 points per contest from behind the arc this season. OU has 31 3-point makes while holding foes to 23 treys (paces Big 12 with fewest opponent 3's per game [3.8]).
• Despite the fact that OU has registered only six fewer turnovers (77) than its opponents (83), it owns a 101-69 advantage in points off turnovers.
• Trailing near the midway point of the first half in each of its first two games, OU used a 26-5 run against ULM in the season opener and a 22-1 run at UT Arlington to take double-digit halftime leads. The Sooners scored the first 15 points of last Thursday's win over UTEP, used a 24-8 first-half run against West Virginia on Sunday to go up by 12 points, and closed Wednesday's game at Oral Roberts on a 19-8 run to win by one.
• The Sooners' bench has been key, supplying 155 of the team's 403 points (38 percent). OU's bench has been outscored just once in six games (loss to Gonzaga). Three starters from last year (Cameron Clark, Andrew Fitzgerald and Sam Grooms have come off the bench the first six contests).
| Sooner to Watch
Steven Pledger | Sr. | Guard
• Registered 18 points with 5 assists against Northwestern State last season
• Averaging 10.0 points in 23.5 minutes per game this season (started all 6 contests)
• Has 13 3-pointers this year and ranks 5th in Big 12 with his 2.2 treys per game
• Has made 9 of 11 free throws on the season for a .818 mark (second best on team)
• Senior forward Romero Osby leads the team in scoring (11.2 ppg) and ranks second in rebounding (6.8 rpg) despite playing just 23.2 minutes a contest. Over the last two games, he has been held to an average of 9.5 points and 4.5 boards in 21.5 minutes an outing. He made the Old Spice Classic all-tournament team last week after averaging 12.3 points and 7.0 rebounds (shot .565 from the field). The transfer who played his first two seasons at Mississippi State is the Big 12's leading returning rebounder (averaged 7.8 last year). He has started all 37 games of his OU career.
• Senior guard Steven Pledger averages 10.0 points in 23.5 minutes an outing. He ranks fifth in the Big 12 with his 2.2 treys per game but is just 3-for-14 over the last three games (was 10-for-22 in the first three contests). The league's leading returning scorer from last season (16.2 ppg), Pledger continues to climb OU's career charts in scoring and 3-pointers. He ranks 32nd in school history with 1,082 points and fifth in 3-pointers (191). He has started his last 38 games.
• Freshman guard Buddy Hield has come off the bench in all six games and ranks fourth on the team with his 9.5 points in 22.2 minutes per contest. The Freeport, Bahamas, native is shooting .420 from the field (.292 at Old Spice Classic) and averages 3.8 rebounds a game. In his top two scoring games this year, all of his output came in one half. At UT Arlington on Nov. 16, Hield scored 17 first-half points. Wednesday at Oral Roberts, he netted all 11 of his points in the game's final 13:28.
• Reigning Big 12 Rookie of the Week Amath M'Baye has led OU in scoring and rebounding each of the last two games (15.5 ppg and 7.5 rpg) while shooting .579 from the field (11-for-19). The junior forward scored a season-high 19 points in Sunday's win over West Virginia and followed with 12 points and 9 rebounds at Oral Roberts. M'Baye, a transfer from Wyoming, leads the team with his .471 field goal percentage and with his 16 offensive rebounds (2.7 per game).
• Freshman guard Je'lon Hornbeak has contributed across the board in OU's first six games, averaging 6.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and a team-high 1.7 steals in 21.8 minutes per game. He has started all six contests.
• A starter every game the last two years, senior forward Andrew Fitzgerald has come off the bench each of the first six games to average 6.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 20.2 minutes an outing. He needs just 54 points to become the 39th member of OU's career 1,000-point club.
• Senior point guard Sam Grooms started all 31 games last year, led the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.8) and ranked second in assists (6.0 per game). He has come off the bench in every game this season and has racked up 16 assists against just 5 turnovers (his 3.2 ratio would again lead the league if he had enough assists to qualify in the category).
• OU's top five individual scoring performances have been turned in by five different players (19 by M'Baye, 17 by Hield, 16 by Osby, 15 by Pledger and 14 by Hornbeak).
PREVIEWING NORTHWESTERN STATE
• Southland Conference member Northwestern State, located in Natchitoches, La., enters Friday's game with a 3-2 record. The Demons won their first three games by an average of 31.3 points (118-77 vs. East Texas Baptist, 71-67 at Campbell and 92-43 vs. Hannibal-LaGrange University). They have lost their last two games on the road, 102-95 at LSU on Nov. 20 and 78-65 at Texas A&M on Monday.
• NSU entered the week leading the nation in scoring at 94.0 points per game (now rank fourth at 88.2). The Demons are shooting .491 from the field, .307 from 3-point range and .689 from the free throw line. They are holding opponents to a .421 mark from the field and a .304 figure from behind the arc.
• A pair of newcomers lead the team in scoring in junior college transfer DeQuan Hicks and redshirt freshman point guard Jalan West. Hicks, a forward, has come off the bench every game to average team highs of 18.0 points and 6.8 rebounds in only 22.4 minutes per game. He is shooting a team-best .621 from the field and has grabbed a team-high 15 offensive rebounds (3.0 per contest). West has started every game and is averaging 15.0 points , 3.6 boards and team highs of 4.8 assists and 2.4 steals per game. He is shooting .578 from the field and .500 (13-for-26) from 3-point distance. He had 26 points and 8 rebounds in his collegiate debut vs. East Texas Baptist and scored a team-high 16 at Texas A&M on Monday.
• Also averaging double figures in scoring are senior shooting guard Shamir Davis (13.6 ppg) and senior forward James Hulbin (12.8 ppg). Davis, who started at point guard the last two seasons, has attempted a team-high 25 free throws (made 20 for a .800 mark). Hulbin is shooting .545 from the floor and contributes 6.0 rebounds an outing. Each has started every game.
• Head coach Mike McConathy is 203-206 in his 14th year at Northwestern State. He led the Demons to regular season Southland titles in 2005 and 2006, and to conference tournament crowns (and NCAA Tournament appearances) in 2001 and 2006.
OU-NORTHWESTERN STATE SERIES HISTORY
Oklahoma owns a 3-0 series lead over Northwestern State, with home wins over the Demons during the 1984-85, 1998-99 and 2011-12 seasons. In the first meeting, Wayman Tisdale scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to pace the Sooners to a 98-62 win. With 11:29 left in the first half, Tisdale notched his fifth and sixth points of the game to pass Kansas State's Mike Evans as the Big Eight Conference's career scoring leader. It was just the 15th game of Tisdale's junior season. In the second meeting, OU guard Michael Johnson scored a then-career-high 23 points and logged a career-high six steals in a 75-55 victory, while four other Sooners scored 10 points each. In a New Year's Eve game last year, Romero Osby and Steven Pledger each scored 18 points to key the Sooners' win.
LAST YEAR AGAINST THE DEMONS
• Oklahoma shot .564 from the field, .600 (3-for-5) from 3-point range and .818 (18-for-22) from the free throw line in an 83-63 home win over Northwestern State on Dec. 31. It held the Demons to .367 field goal and .250 (6-for-24) 3-point shooting.
• OU led 40-29 at halftime but Northwestern State cut the margin to two (48-46) with 12:30 remaining. The Sooners responded with a 19-3 run to regain command.
• The Sooners committed a season-high 18 turnovers but outrebounded the Demons 38-30.
• Junior forward Romero Osby scored a career-high 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting and added 5 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
• Junior guard Steven Pledger also netted 18 points (3-for-5 3-point shooting) and handed out 5 assists.
• Junior forward Andrew Fitzgerald scored 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting in only 17 minutes (foul trouble).
• Junior point guard Sam Grooms tallied 11 points (one shy of career high) on 5-for-7 shooting and added 4 assists in 23 minutes.
BUNCH OF HOMERS
Oklahoma has dominated home non-conference games over the last decade, winning 93 of its last 95 non-league contests inside Lloyd Noble Center going back to Jan. 3, 2000 (good for a .977 winning percentage). Included was a streak of 49 non-conference home victories that was snapped by Villanova on Dec. 6, 2006. The current string stands at 35 wins.
WEDNESDAY'S ORAL ROBERTS RECAP
• Oklahoma snapped Oral Roberts' 24-game regular-season home court winning streak with a 63-62 victory. Trailing 54-44, the Sooners outscored ORU 19-8 in the game's final nine minutes.
• OU improved to 2-0 in true road games this year. It finished 1-9 in true road games each of the past three seasons.
• The Sooners won despite being held to .397 field goal and .200 (2-for-10) 3-point field goal marks. OU's win at UT Arlington on Nov. 16 came despite a .328 field goal performance.
• ORU entered the game with a +8.5 rebounding margin per contest, but the Sooners won the boards battle, 37-33 (25-15 in second half. Eighteen of OU's 37 rebounds (49 percent) were offensive. It scored 17 second-chance points to ORU's 10 (12-4 second-half).
• OU's bench outscored ORU's 26-0.
• Junior forward Amath M'Baye paced OU with 12 points and 9 rebounds. The reigning Big 12 Rookie of the Week was 6-for-13 from the field and added an assist and 2 steals.
• Freshman guard Buddy Hield came off the bench to supply 11 points, all in the game's final 13:28. He was 4-for-9 from the field.
• Senior forward Romero Osby contributed 11 points and 3 rebounds, including OU's final carom on Shawn Glover's missed field goal attempt with 1.4 seconds remaining. Osby also took three charges, giving him a team-high five for the season.
The Sooners play away from home for the sixth time in seven games when they travel to take on Arkansas (3-2 record through Thursday) on Tuesday at 6 p.m. CT. The game will be televised by ESPN2.