Sooners have quick turnaround following Thursday night game at Cincinnati.
||Romero Osby is averaging 15.0 rebounds over the last two games.
SATURDAY'S GAME BASICS
Oklahoma (9-2) returns home following a 56-55 Thursday loss at Cincinnati to host Northwestern State (7-6) on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT at Lloyd Noble Center in the final regular season non-conference game for both teams. The Sooners are aiming for their 34th straight non-conference home victory and will face a Demons squad that has won three of its last four. Saturday’s contest will air on the Sooner Radio Network (KOKC AM 1520 in Oklahoma City; KTBZ AM 1430 in Tulsa; Sirius 112; XM 195) with Toby Rowland and Mike Houck announcing. The game will be televised by the Sooner Sports Network (Cox 3/703 in OKC and Tulsa) with Brian Brinkley and Billy Tubbs 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 noon on Saturday.
• OU students may purchase a ticket for $5. OU student season tickets cost $40.
• In six home games this year (all wins), the Sooners are shooting .459 from the field, .414 from behind the arc and .744 from the free throw line. Opponents are shooting .385, .254 and .632, respectively. OU also owns a +15.0 rebounding advantage at home this year.
• Oklahoma has been impressive defensively since sustaining its first loss of the season to Saint Louis in the 76 Classic championship game on Nov. 27. In its last six games, OU has held opponents to an average of 58.8 points on .367 field goal and .258 3-point shooting. Those six opponents have combined for a 45-31 record on the year.
• OU ranks No. 4 nationally in rebounds per game (42.5), No. 16 in 3-point field goal percentage (.404), No. 46 in scoring (76.5 ppg) and No. 47 in free throw percentage (.733). OU also ranks in the top 10 with its +10.6 average rebounding margin.
• The Sooners have scored at least 75 points seven times in their 11 games. Last year’s team reached the 75-point mark seven times in its 32 contests.
• OU has shot better than .500 from behind the arc in three of its last six games.
• OU’s wins over Sacramento State (by 29 points), Coppin State (27), Arkansas (15), Washington State (15), Oral Roberts (14) and Houston (5) represent those teams’ largest margins of defeat this year. The Sooners also handed South Carolina State (35 points) its second worst defeat.
• The Sooners’ pressure defense under new head coach Lon Kruger has boosted the team’s offense through 11 games. Opponents have averaged 14.5 turnovers, resulting in 16.4 points per contest for OU on the other end of the floor. Foes haven’t been as opportunistic, averaging 11.8 points off the Sooners’ 12.9 turnovers per game.
• Rebounding was mentioned by Kruger several times in the preseason as a concern of his for 2011-12. However, OU has outboarded 10 of its 11 opponents and ranks in the top 10 nationally with its +10.6 margin per contest despite not starting anyone taller than 6-8. Included were a +34 effort against Coppin State (61-27) on Nov. 18 and a +27 performance against South Carolina State (63-36) on Dec. 21. The Sooners own a 182-126 offensive rebounding advantage on the year (despite shooting .445 to their opponents’ .397 mark).
PLEDGER OFF TO A SIZZLING START
• After averaging 8.6 points and shooting .386 from the field and .345 from long distance over his first two seasons, junior guard Steven Pledger is averaging 18.9 points this year and is shooting .551 from the field (leads Big 12 guards) and .475 from 3-point range (single-season school record is .473 by Tim Heskett in 1998-99). Pledger ranks second in the Big 12 in scoring (Texas’ J’Covan Brown averages 19.0 points), No. 4 in 3-point field goal percentage and 3-pointers per game (2.8), No. 5 in field goal percentage and free throw percentage (.861), and No. 12 in steals (1.3 per game).
• To help put Pledger’s .551 field goal performance in perspective, the only OU guard since the start of the 3-point era in 1986-87 (25 years ago) to shoot at least .500 from the field over the course of an entire season was Nolan Johnson in 1999-00. Johnson shot .559 that year but only attempted two 3-point field goals and made none. Pledger is 28-for-59 from deep.
• Over the last four games, Pledger is averaging 21.5 points and 6.0 rebounds while shooting .558 (29-for-52) from the field, .500 (14-for-28) from 3-point distance and .875 (14-for-16) from the free throw line. He recorded his first career double-double with 31 points and 10 boards in the Dec. 17 All-College Classic win over Houston.
• Pledger has scored in double figures in each of his 10 outings and has shot at least .500 from the field in seven games. He has scored at least 20 points five times after doing it three times all of last season.
• Pledger averaged 13.6 points per 40 minutes last season but has significantly increased that projection this year (24.9).
• Pledger has made 65 field goals this year, already putting him at 58 percent of last year’s total (112). He is on pace for 188 field goals in this year’s regular season.
| Sooner to Watch
Andrew Fitzgerald | Jr. | Forward
• Coming off a season-high 18-point game at Cincinnati (added nine rebounds)
• Has scored at least 16 points four times in the last five games
• Averaging 13.3 points and shooting .538 from the field in home games
• Has scored in double figures in each of the last six contests
MORE INDIVIDUAL NOTES
• Junior guard Sam Grooms has been strong at the point, ranking No. 3 in the Big 12 in assists (5.5) and No. 2 in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7). He has recorded one or zero turnovers five times in 11 games and ranks second on the team in minutes (29.4). Over the last three outings, Grooms has 23 assists and six turnovers (3.8 ratio).
• Junior forward Romero Osby leads the Big 12 with his 3.5 offensive rebounds per game and ranks third with his 9.1 overall boards per outing. He has recorded at least 10 rebounds on six occasions this year (his career high entering the season was eight). He has 30 boards over the last two games, including a career-high 18 vs. South Carolina State on Dec. 21.
• Junior forward Andrew Fitzgerald has scored in double figures in each of the last six games (averaging 15.2 during stretch on .526 shooting) after doing it just twice in OU’s first five outings (averaged 8.4 points on .400 shooting). He has scored at least 16 points in four of the last five games.
• Since sophomore guard Calvin Newell left the team on Dec. 1, sophomore forward Tyler Neal’s production has jumped markedly. Neal is averaging 8.5 points and 4.0 rebounds over the last six games. In OU’s first five games — before Newell announced he was transferring — Neal averaged 5.0 points and 3.2 rebounds.
• OU’s Dec. 21 win over South Carolina State leaves Lon Kruger just 12 victories shy of 500 for his career. He ranks second among current Big 12 head coaches with 487 career wins (Texas’ Rick Barnes has 533 victories).
PREVIEWING NORTHWESTERN STATE
• Southland Conference member Northwestern State, located in Natchitoches, La., enters Saturday’s game with a 7-6 record. The Demons had won three straight prior to an 82-67 defeat to Mississippi State in their last outing (Dec. 22) in Jackson, Miss. They are 5-0 at home and 2-5 in true road games.
• Northwestern State has experienced a sharp increase in shooting percentages over the last five games. The Demons shot .386 from the field and .272 from 3-point range in their first eight contests, but are shooting .472 from the field and .389 from long range over the last five.
• After leading the nation in blocked shots (7.0 per game) last year, NSU is averaging 6.8 rejections this season. It also averages 10.0 steals per outing, giving the Demons top-10 national rankings in both categories this year.
• Junior guard Shamir Davis is averaging team highs of 13.3 points, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He has scored in double figures in each of the last five contests and poured in 28 points at Louisiana Tech on Dec. 6.
• Senior guard Louis Ellis contributes 10.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per outing. He has made a team-high 27 3-pointers (2.1 per game) and is shooting .333 from deep.
• Senior center William Mosley contributes 9.1 points and team highs of 9.7 rebounds and 3.8 blocked shots per game. The 6-7, 220-pounder led the nation with his 4.9 rejections a game last year and ranks No. 4 nationally this season.
• Head coach Mike McConathy is 191-194 in his 13th 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 2-0 series lead over Northwestern State, with home wins over the Demons during the 1984-85 and 1998-99 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.
CLEANING THE GLASS
• OU leads the Big 12 in rebounding margin at +10.6 (Texas A&M ranks second at +8.2), rebounds per game at 42.2 (ranks No. 4 nationally), offensive rebounds per game at 16.5 and offensive rebounding percentage at 45 percent (K-State ranks No. 2 at 42 percent).
• The Sooners have outrebounded 10 of their 11 opponents. Washington State outboarded them by three (35-32).
• Oklahoma’s top two rebounding totals of the 16-year Big 12 era have been recorded this year (63 vs. S.C. State and 61 vs. Coppin State).
• OU has pulled down double-digit offensive rebounds in all but the Sacramento State game (nine) and is averaging 16.5 offensive boards per contest to its opponents’ 11.5. The Sooners are averaging 14.8 second-chance points while foes are averaging 10.1.
BUNCH OF HOMERS
Oklahoma has dominated home non-conference games over the last decade, winning 91 of its last 93 non-league contests inside Lloyd Noble Center going back to Jan. 3, 2000 (good for a .978 winning percentage). Included was a streak of 49 non-conference home victories that was snapped by Villanova, 67-51, on Dec. 6, 2006. The only other home non-conference loss during the last 92 games was a 66-62 defeat at the hands of Stephen F. Austin in the 2007-08 season. The current win string stands at 33 games.
THURSDAY’S CINCINNATI RECAP
• Oklahoma held a 12-point lead with six minutes remaining but was outscored 19-6 down the stretch in a 56-55 loss at Cincinnati on Thursday. OU suffered the defeat despite holding the Bearcats to a season-low .279 field goal performance. UC entered the game averaging 99.0 points over its previous three outings.
• OU trailed for a total of 44 seconds on the night. UC’s first lead of the second half came with 39 seconds left.
• The Sooners committed 17 turnovers to UC’s eight and were outscored 16-5 off turnovers.
• On three consecutive possessions with under three minutes left, Cincinnati missed a 3-pointer but grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled. The Bearcats went 6-for-6 from the free throw line on those three trips.
• All eight Bearcats who attempted a shot finished the game with a sub-.500 field goal figure.
• Junior forward Andrew Fitzgerald scored a season-high 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting and added nine rebounds and two blocks.
• Junior forward Romero Osby recorded his fourth double-double of the year (second straight) with 12 points and 12 rebounds. He was 6-for-10 from the floor. His 12 boards were his second highest career total.
• Junior point guard Sam Grooms scored all six of his points after halftime and finished with a game-high nine assists (one shy of his career high).
SOONER TIP INS
• Oklahoma has recorded 35 dunks in its 11 games (3.2 average) and junior forward Romero Osby has 19 of them (54 percent).
• Osby has grabbed at least six rebounds in 10 of 11 games this year. In his 35 games at Mississippi State as a sophomore in 2009-10, Osby pulled down at least six boards on three occasions.
• Last year, Steven Pledger averaged 15.4 points in OU’s wins and 7.4 points in its losses. This year, the junior guard is averaging 20.9 points in wins and 11.0 in defeats.
• Oklahoma and Texas are the only two Big 12 schools who have eight players each averaging at least 3.0 rebounds.
• OU’s top three scorers at home are all shooting at least .500 from the field (.579 by Pledger, .538 by Andrew Fitzgerald, .500 by Osby).
The Sooners begin Big 12 play on Tuesday at 13-0 Missouri at 7 p.m. CT. The game will be televised by the Mizzou Sports Network.