NORMAN — Oklahoma basketball has had it pretty good. Lloyd Noble Center may not be Allen Fieldhouse, but it’s still an almost 12,000-seat arena, and though its architecture may not provide for the most intimate setting, many very good teams have played to many terrific crowds through the years.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an intimate basketball setting still to be found in the heart of campus, even where some pretty strong teams once made their home.
Today, Sooner fans can venture into that occasionally glorious past when Oklahoma takes on Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Howard McCasland Field House.
Perhaps better known, simply, as “the old fieldhouse,” it’s actually a much better version of its old self, an arena that once housed teams coached by Bruce Drake and John MacLeod, led by players like Garfield Heard and Alvan Adams, and in latter years has become the home court and arena to Sooner volleyball and wrestling.
Where this year’s Sooners, led by second-year coach Lon Kruger, might stand against hardwood history is yet to be seen. Still, OU (8-3) will enter the game in its historic home from a very good place, meeting the Islanders (1-9) coming off a 74-63 victory over Buffalo on Saturday night at Lloyd Noble Center.
Tied at the half, the Sooners came to life behind 14 second-half points from a very hot Steven Pledger.
Though victory may not be the biggest issue against a struggling program like A&M-CC, there’s still a premium on a solid performance. After today, OU’s next game isn’t until Jan. 5 at Morgantown, W.V., the Sooners’ Big 12 opener against West Virginia.
On Saturday, OU and Buffalo entered the second half tied 29-29 before the Sooners played 20 of their best minutes. More of the same would be a fine ticket against the Islanders.
“I thought we had better movement offensively. I thought we came off picks crisper and sharper, and jumped into shots with good rhythm,” Kruger said. “Some transition opportunities help the percentage, too. We had a few of those in the second half.”
OU has shot better than 50 percent from the field just once all season, in an 81-78 loss at Arkansas. But beating the Bobcats on Saturday was a big step. The Sooners shot 47.4 percent (27 of 57), got to the foul line for 23 attempts and ran up their most points in a victory since topping West Virginia 77-70 on the final day of the Old Spice Classic on Nov. 25 in Orlando, Fla.
“Play smart, we can’t have any mental lapses,” said Pledger of today’s strategy. “We are going to see how the young guys adapt and how the vets adapt.”
The Sooners received a good mix against Ohio, getting 16 points each from Amath M’Baye and Romero Osby, as well as seven assists and four steals from freshman Buddy Heild.
“Everybody is coming into his own and becoming more confident,” Osby said.
More of the same should leave OU in a good place after a night at the old fieldhouse.
Clay HorningFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org