Pledger's Clutch Three Keys Victory

NORMAN, Okla. — With less than 20 seconds remaining and a mad scramble for a loose ball on the deck, guard Steven Pledger moved himself beyond the arc to the right wing, where guard Calvin Newell found him after coming up with possession from the scrum, and he buried a game-tying three-pointer to tie it at 58 with 15.4 seconds left.

The Sooners used that momentum to hold off North Carolina Central on their final possession of regulation, and they outlasted the Eagles 71-63 in an overtime thriller.

"That time it was just ‘calm down,' I've been in this situation before," Pledger said of the game-tying sequence. "I work for moments like that. So, I just go through my progression and keep shooting."

Up to that point, Pledger was only 1-for-7 from three-point range and the Sooners were only 2-for-20 as a team from deep.

But all of those misses were forgotten when he drilled that one shot, propelling OU to a victory in which N.C. Central every chance to win.

"We were very fortunate to get a win," said OU head coach Jeff Capel. "You have to give a lot of credit to North Carolina Central. I thought they were tremendous. I knew they would come in very hungry."

And for a large part of the game, that showed, as they dictated most of the contest.

In fact, from the 8:38 mark in the first half--N.C. Central guard C.J. Wilkerson hit a three to put them up 18-17 at that time--on until Pledger's game-tying trey, N.C. Central led.

They led by as much as eight points twice, but just couldn't ever extend it into double figures, and that was because the Sooners put the clamp down defensively as the game went on.

"I thought our defense in the second half was a little bit better," Capel said. "We held them to 33 percent in the second half, and then, finally, down the stretch we were able to make a few plays and were very, very fortunate to get the game into overtime."

After giving up the game's first basket, OU scored the next six points and leaped out to an early 15-9 lead, but they could not maintain it.

The Eagles used a 15-2 burst to go up 24-17 en route to a 35-32 halftime advantage.

OU scored the first basket of the second half and cut the N.C. Central lead to 35-34, one of nine times the Sooners chopped the deficit to one, but they were unsuccessful on all those occasions at tying it or taking the lead.

The Sooners did, finally, get on the high side in overtime on a pair of back-to-back buckets in the lane from forward Nick Thompson.

"It just kind of happened, I guess," Thompson said. "It's not like I went in there thinking I was going to go score and get an assist. We just played, and it ended up being me. It could have been Steve. It could have been anybody. They just found me at the right time."

And OU never trailed again, winning the overtime period 13-5.

Forward Andrew Fitzgerald led the Sooners with 22 points to go along with nine rebounds, while Pledger had 14 points, and guard Calvin Newell also finished in double figures with 10 points.

Thompson managed only six points, four of which were in overtime, but racked up 12 boards.

Guard Landon Clement led the way with 22 for the Eagles.

The Sooners next take on Texas Southern at 7 p.m. Thursday at Lloyd Noble Center.

More postgame coverage:

Capel's Postgame Press Conference Part I

Capel's Postgame Press Conference Part II

Player Postgame Press Conference

Report Card

Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.


Sooners Illustrated Top Stories