Sooners Top Bengals in Regular Season-Opener

NORMAN, Okla. — Not without some first game rust, but OU and the Lon Kruger Era got going on the right path with its regular-season opening 78-74 victory over the Idaho State Bengals in front of 4,308 Friday night at Lloyd Noble Center.

The Sooners erased a 10-point Idaho State lead in the first half to come back and take a double-digit lead of their own with 1:27 left and held on to win it while only shooting 36.5 percent from the field.

"Guys battled right there at one point when we were down 10 or 11 in the first half and come back to a couple there before halftime," Kruger said. "It's a good sign. No question that you don't like being down, but how you respond when you're down is really important."

And it was majorly behind a two-man wrecking crew of guard Calvin Newell and forward Romero Osby.

Newell hit four crucial threes on 11 attempts on his way to a game-high 19 points.

"I talked to Coach earlier today, and he said, 'If you put your team first, then everything else will fall into place,'" Newell said. "That's what I tried to do. Tonight I didn't start, but I was cheering on my team and was more engaged...I knew where I was supposed to be and knocked down shots when the ball came to me."

Osby was a force in the paint with a double-double of 17 points and 10 boards.

"I have to give credit to my teammates, first of all," Osby said. "They found me in certain situations in the back of that zone. Coach is always preaching about going to the offensive glass and defensive glass, and that's what I pride myself on. It just felt good to get out there and on the floor with these guys because I've been playing with them for a year. So, it finally felt good to play with them and have this game experience with them."

Point guard Sam Grooms did his part as well.

Although he made just 2-of-10 shots, Grooms distributed the ball effectively and took care of it, racking up eight assists to just two turnovers, and was sound at the free throw line, going 7-for-8 there for a huge chunk of his 11 points.

In the meantime, the Sooners won the battle on the boards 43-39 all the while having trouble with some of Idaho State's size throughout.

"They had good size," Kruger said. "They were a big team, obviously, with the big guy inside. We have to work on rebounding the ball. We're going to keep getting better at it."

As some of the rest of the stats indicate, though, including points in the paint (Idaho State 32-26) and fast break points (Idaho State 20-10), it was a struggle, and that was basically from the get-go.

After OU led 6-5 in the early stages, the Bengals went on a run that saw them up 27-17 at the 5:28 mark of the first half.

OU, however, completely erased that deficit and regained the lead at 30-29 over the next 3:03.

But Idaho State regained it for a 34-31 lead at intermission.

Still, OU never trailed by more than four again, down 39-35 with 18:03 left and 52-48 just under the 12-minute mark.

That's when OU used a 17-6 spurt to go up by seven points with 5:35 to go, its largest lead of the game at that point.

The Sooners carried that lead the rest of the way to victory.

Along with Newell, Osby and Grooms, guard Carl Blair also finished in double figures with his 12 points on 3-for-7 shooting in the winning effort.

"Different guys stepped up at different times and we'll see some plays where we can do a lot better," Kruger said. "That's what you expect from a first game. And the combination of winning and the opportunity to learn is a good one, so we feel good about that."

For Idaho State, four men finished in doubles, including guards Kenny McGowen, Melvin Morgan and Chase Grabau, who had 14, 11 and 10, respectively, and forward Dejan Kostur, who added 12.

The Sooners next hit the hardwood in a week when they host Coppin State at 7 p.m. CT.

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