Sooners Down Arkansas 78-63

NORMAN, Okla. — Forward Andrew Fitzgerald spearheaded a spirited first half effort on his 21st birthday, and the Sooners rolled to victory, defeating the Arkansas Razorbacks 78-63 Saturday afternoon at Lloyd Noble Center.

"My man was hot for his birthday," said guard Steven Pledger, who had himself a game as well. "I loved it. I loved it."

Fitzgerald racked up all 17 of his points and seven rebounds in 17 first half minutes, shooting 7-of-11 on the afternoon, while Pledger finished a scorching hot 9-for-12 from the field, including 3-of-5 from long range, on his way to 22 points.

"Yeah, I was in the groove early," Fitzgerald said. "My teammates found me open at the right time and were looking for me. I really give all the credit for my points to my teammates, who found me open at the right time. Without them, I wouldn't be as hot as I am right now."

And the Sooners wouldn't be as hot as they are right now without his production.

They're 7-1 and really clicking in their first season under new head coach Lon Kruger.

"He's definitely boosted our confidence, ever since he arrived in April," Pledger said. "We all had individual meetings with him and he let us know what he wants from us. I appreciated that from him because it gave us confidence are we're doing our thing right now."

This time last year, the Sooners already had five losses and just a 4-5 overall record.

So, the turnaround is already a long way down the road in its progress.

The latest version Saturday included a sluggish start, but the Sooners overcame it.

Arkansas scored the first four points and guard Cameron Clark picked up two fouls in the opening 1:24.

From that point, it was basically all Oklahoma.

OU used a 16-1 run to capture a double digit lead, as it couldn't miss much from the field.

"Shooting the ball well cures a lot of problems," Kruger said. "They put a lot of time in. That's the thing we keep reinforcing to our guys. It's not an accident if you spend time, shoot before practice, shoot after practice. As you start making shots, of course, you want to shoot more, so it kind of reinforces itself."

It certainly did on this day, as the Sooners shot their way to a 37-25 halftime lead after being up by as much as 16 midway through the half.

Arkansas closed the gap to six points early in the second half, but that's when OU clamped down.

The Sooners used a quick 7-0 spurt to open up a 13-point lead at 48-35, and it was never closer than 10 again.

They got up by as much as 18 with 3:47 to play, as they completed a perfect three-game home stand.

"I'm really happy for the guys," Kruger said. "I thought they played great. It was one day of preparation for an Arkansas team, that is a unique preparation. I thought they were fantastic defensively, played with great awareness, contested a lot of shots for the most part.

"They rebounded the ball well again. They handled the pressure pretty well, threw the ball down the floor, attacked pretty aggressively, made a lot of good plays for each other, and a lot of guys stepped up and made shots. It was a good combination of stuff."

OU won the rebounding battle 38-26 and outshot the Hogs 52 percent to 34.5 percent.

Forward Tyler Neal provided a nice boost off the bench with 18 points on 4-for-8 shooting from long range, while starting forward Romero Osby scored 10.

Arkansas reserve guard B.J. Young led all scorers with 24, while guards Mardracus Wade and Rickey Scott added 11 and 10, respectively.

OU now has a week to prepare before facing Houston at 7 p.m. Saturday in the All-College Classic.

Arkansas returns home to face Southeastern Louisiana.

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