NORMAN — The boost Oklahoma has used to win seven of its first nine games has typically come with about 5 minutes remaining.
What was unique about Saturday’s 64-54 victory over Texas A&M at the All-College Classic was that OU found that spurt a little earlier. An 8-0 run midway through the second half did the trick.
“Midway in the second half is much better than to do it later, if you have choice,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “This group keeps working at it; that’s the good thing about the group. They want to have a good basketball team and they’re willing. They’re finding a little more out about themselves and what they have to do to be more effective.”
There’s still much room for improvement. The Sooners (7-2) won despite shooting 38.9 percent. Three of their starters — forward Amath M’Baye and guards Je’lon Hornbeak and Isaiah Cousins — didn’t make a shot from the field. They even got outrebounded 35-31.
There were a lot of reasons why OU should have lost.
They were overcome by the Sooners’ ability to overcome their failings.
OU forced 19 turnovers and turned them into 11 fast-break points.
Thirteen of those turnovers came from the Aggies starting backcourt — J’Mychal Reese, Alex Caruso and Elston Turner. When guards commit turnovers, it usually leads to easy baskets. That was the case on Saturday.
Despite losing the battle on the boards, Sooner forward Romero Osby was still an offensive force, bullying his way to 19 points with nine coming from the free-throw line.
Particularly in the second half, Osby was unrelenting in his attempts to get the basket.
“When it is a physical game like that, you just have to stick your nose in there, if that makes sense, and just try to be physical and counteract what they are doing,” Osby said.
Another bonus in OU’s column was the play of Cameron Clark. Kruger went with a four-guard lineup most of the second half and played the 6-foot-6 Clark at power forward. It worked like a charm. Clark scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half.
The Aggies never adjusted.
The versatility Clark showed Saturday was a new element. It’s something OU will likely use again when it faces Stephen F. Austin at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Lloyd Noble Center.
In many ways, Clark’s performance was like finding an unexpected present under the Christmas tree.
“What’s interesting is we’re quite a ways into the season and we’re still searching for identities and different roles,” Kruger said. “I like what the four-guard lineup with Cam produced today. Cam made that happen.”
And the Sooners found another way to win when struggling to make shots. They would prefer to not have to win ugly, but it has to be nice to know it can be done.
The Sooners’ victory over Texas A&M was another example.
John ShinnFollow me @email@example.com