NORMAN, Okla. – With its opponent playing its third game in four nights, the object was simple for the Oklahoma basketball team.
Come out early, set the tone and never let visiting Oral Roberts feel like it belonged in the same gym with the 15th-ranked Sooners.
Mission accomplished as OU started fast, never let up and finished strong in a dominant 85-53 victory against another fellow in-state program Tuesday night at Lloyd Noble Center.
For the second consecutive game, it was senior forward TaShawn Thomas getting things rolling for OU. Thomas scored 10 points in the first seven minutes as OU jumped out to a 15-6 lead and never looked back in improving to 7-2 overall.
“We established early we can go to the post,” coach Lon Kruger said. “Tae and Ryan (Spangler) are both really good passers in the post.”
Although the outcome was never in question, it was a positive sign for OU junior guard Buddy Hield. There’s no doubt he has had some struggles this season from the floor, but he was 6-of-10 shooting for a team-high 16 points that included going 3 of 5 on his 3-point field goal attempts.
It was clear the performance meant a lot to Hield, who entered the postgame press conference with that trademark smile once again.
“I feel a little relieved,” Hield said. “But I got to thank all my teammates for getting me in good position to make things happen.”
Hield was one of four OU players to score at least 13 points. Thomas finished with 14, while Spangler and Isaiah Cousins each had 13 points. Spangler also had 10 rebounds.
OU was up 39-24 at halftime and came out roaring to start the second half, eventually building up a 41-point lead. Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton didn’t want to use fatigue as an excuse, but Kruger said it certainly played a role.
“It’s real,” said Kruger about the fatigue. “In the second half fatigue really became a factor.”
A tired team was the perfect recipe for another strong outing by sophomore guard Jordan Woodard, who had eight points and also dished out eight assists. Woodard was playing against two former Edmond Memorial teammates in the game.
Toward the midway point of the second half, the only question was whether OU would escape healthy. Thomas injured his wrist diving for a loose ball but said he will be OK.