Sooners capture season opener

NORMAN, Okla. — The Sooners jumpstarted their season with an 85-51 shellacking of the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks Sunday afternoon at Lloyd Noble Center.

"For an opener I thought there were stretches of a lot of good things and as you might expect, certainly a lot of things we need to continue working on," said OU head coach Lon Kruger. "But I thought we took a lot better care of the ball today. We didn't have as many turnovers and we rebounded the ball much better. I thought those are two areas clearly where we did much better than we performed in the two exhibition games. "I think we're continuing to improve a little bit defensively every day in practice. We got a ways to go in all of these areas but the good thing about these guys is they'll keep working at it."

They used an evenly dispersed scoring attack to do so, placing four scorers in double figures.

Sharpshooting guard Steven Pledger led the way with his 15, while forwards Amath M'Baye and Andrew Fitzgerald each poured in 12.

Guard Je'lon Hornbeak added 10.

Three other Sooners, forwards Romero Osby and Tyler Neal and guard Buddy Hield, finished just a clip off the double digit plateau with their nine.

OU was sluggish out of the gates, allowing the visiting Warhawks to hang around for the opening eight minutes and change.

That was until the Sooners used a quick 8-0 spurt over the next 2:24, and it was never close again.

"We didn't open it up really sharp," Kruger said. "I thought we were a little bit on our heels defensively especially, kind of watching as opposed to dictating there. Then, we did create some opportunities from our defense with our steals and traps which seemed to get us jump-started a little bit after we got off to a slow start."

The Sooners led by double digits a minute later and extended it from there, leading 38-22 at intermission after boosting the margin to as much as 20 in the first half.

Coming out of the locker room it was more of the same.

OU pushed the lead to 25 when it became 51-26 three minutes into the second frame.

Halfway through the second half, Fitzgerald's jumper ran the count to more than 30 at 63-32.

"Coach [and I] had our meeting and [he] said I would come off the bench some games," said the 6-foot-8, 238-pound senior who's started 74 of his 89 career games, including the last 64 heading into this one. "And I took a great approach to it, have been real positive about it. He still wants me to be aggressive and still help this team out scoring wise. But I'm just here to help my team out and just be a positive leader for them with a team-first attitude. And whenever they need me to be aggressive, then I'll just be aggressive, but it's a team-first concept."

Later, M'Baye slammed home a ferocious dunk in the following minutes that helped OU maintain that margin the rest of the contest.

As a team, the Sooners outshot the Warhawks 47.1 percent to 34.5 percent, while winning the rebounding battle 49-30.

And OU had 20 assists to just nine for ULM.

While the Sooners had four double figure scorers, ULM had just one in guard Amos Olatayo, who produced a game-high 21.

After taking care of business in their home court season opener, the Sooners now hit the road for a long trip, beginning with a date at UT-Arlington Friday.

They'll play five games before returning home to the LNC Nov. 30.

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