OKLAHOMA CITY — The 76th Annual Ramada All-College Basketball Classic was Saturday night at the newly renovated Chesapeake Energy Arena. The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University teams participated in this year’s event.
OU is off to a great start under first-year Coach Lon Kruger, and they continued their winning ways with a hard-fought 79-74 victory over the Houston Cougars in the opening game.
The Sooners (8-1) are off to their best start since the 2008-09 season. Kruger’s team is playing great defense and getting balanced scoring from several players this season.
Steven Pledger, who leads the team with a 17.9 scoring average, had a double-double with 31 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Sooners against the Cougars. Houston Coach James Dickey (former Texas Tech coach) was impressed with Pledger’s performance.
“He’s a great player,” Dickey said. “The thing that’s impressive is he gets 31 points, and does it on only 13 attempts — and was 7-of-7 at the free-throw line. He makes it look effortless at times. He’s just smooth, very unselfish, smart and strong. Coach Kruger and his staff have done a terrific job with him, and his teammates know how to find him.”
As has been the case in several games this season, OU has played inconsistent, but finds a way to win down the stretch.
In the nightcap, OSU fell to New Mexico 66-56. OSU (6-4) kept the game close in the early going, but the Lobos (8-2) used a 12-0 first-half run to take a 36-26 lead at halftime. The Cowboys actually rallied from a 13-point deficit in the second half, and took a 53-52 lead after a 3-point basket by Jean-Paul Olukemi with 7:52 left to play. However, OSU would score only three more points the rest of the game (all on free throws). OSU Coach Travis Ford was upset with his team’s play.
“When you miss as many lay-ups as we did, it puts your back against the wall,” Ford said. “Our team just keeps finding itself fighting back all of the time against really good teams. We’re using all of our runs just to get close, rather than using our runs to get a lead. We made a lot of bad decisions. It’s bewildering.”
OSU shot just 32.1 percent in the game and committed 15 turnovers to just eight for the Lobos.
Both teams are in action tonight. The Sooners will entertain South Carolina Statet while OSU travels to Birmingham to face the Alabama Crimson Tide.
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Despite their early success, the Sooners did not have much of a crowd at the arena Saturday night. OSU’s crowd was sparse as well. The entire top section of the arena was curtained off and only a few thousand were in attendance. Of course, it was a Saturday night with other events taking place, and the Big 12 season has not begun. I believe the Sooners will surprise some fans this season, while the Cowboys still have to make a believer out of me.
Editor's Note — Kevin Gray was a reporter at The Poteau Daily News from 1995 to 1997. He just recently got back from a National Guard Tour of Duty overseas, and lives in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. He will help sports coverage for PDN when events happen in that area.