Big shots help OU accomplish big things

Sooners rely on bolstered bench to achieve NCAA history, advance to Sweet 16

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Down by nine points with the anti-Oklahoma crowd making more noise than it had at any other point Sunday night, Sooners’ guard Frank Booker pulled up from the wing with a hand in his face.

Challenged from the wing, it didn’t matter that Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger didn’t like the shot.

Booker liked it, and knocked it down.

“I feel like I’m a pretty great shooter,” Booker said. “I feel like in big games, I can step up and bring a spark off the bench. That’s my role, to come off the bench and bring a spark so we can have a better chance of winning.”

In the middle of his second-straight, late-season surge, Booker has helped lead a reinvigorated bench, which only scored two points during the Big 12 Tournament but has scored 30 points in two games.

Booker has 20 points after leading Oklahoma with nine points through the first half of a 72-66 victory against Dayton on Sunday night that pushed the third-seeded Sooners to the Sweet 16.

Senior forward D.J. Bennett has played meaningful minutes for the first time in two months, scoring a two-game total unmatched since Jan. 19.

Freshman Khadeem Lattin once again played minutes that Kruger thoroughly enjoyed.

“I was really proud of the toughness,” Kruger said. “It’s a growing opportunity, not only for this group, but for the program too.”

Kruger’s big night

Downplaying his upcoming accomplishment from more than a week, Oklahoma’s fourth-year coach still tried to play down one of the biggest achievements in NCAA history.

Kruger became the first coach in NCAA history to lead four teams to the Sweet 16. Not that he cared at all.

“It obviously doesn’t make a lot of difference in people’s lives,” Kruger said. “Certainly wont in mind. But it means we’ve had a lot of good players, a lot of good programs and certainly proud of this group today.”

His players though, were proud to be a part of it.

“He’s a really smart coach,” Booker said. “He knows what plays we need to use at what times. He’s real methodical about what he does. That’s why he has that. He’s the only coach that has done it.”

Live by the 3, but don’t die by it

The Sooners couldn’t have asked for a better start from behind the 3-point arc.

On Oklahoma’s opening possession, point guard Jordan Woodard knocked down a shot from straight away, then Buddy Hield hit one from the wing on the next possession.

Isaiah Cousins hit one a few minutes later, and Booker knocked a 3 down to give Oklahoma an eight-point lead.

Dinjiyl Walker made it five different players to knock down a 3 when his jumper from the corner gave Oklahoma a 12-point lead.

“That was pretty good to see everybody make shots,” Cousins said. “It means we can be very dangerous if we keep it up.”

That was when the good feeling ended.

Oklahoma went the next 6:37 without a field goal but rebounded in the second half. Despite taking the same number of 3-pointers as the first half, the Sooners looked elsewhere for offense – scoring twice as many points in the paint in the second 20-minute period.

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