Days before Oklahoma faced Kansas State with the Sooners looking to win their first Big 12 Conference game, guard Carl Blair didn’t mince words.
“I think people feel like they can come in here and it’s going to be easy for them,” Blair said. “Next game we have to make a statement.”
The Sooners defeated No. 18-ranked KSU, 82-73, at the Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday afternoon, improving to 11-5 overall and 1-3 in the Big 12.
For the first time since conference play began on Jan. 3, the Sooners looked like the squad that went 10-2 in non conference play. The Sooners shot 54.9 percent (28 of 51 from the field) for the game and 70 percent (14 of 20 from the field) in the second half.
OU had 12 steals and 30 points off turnovers as its defense was much more active than it was in conference losses to Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma State.
Player of the Game: Andrew Fitzgerald. The junior forward was 9 of 10 from the field on his way to 21 points to lead the Sooners. He added three rebounds, two steals and one blocked shot. The junior is one of the most efficient scorers in the Big 12.
Unsung Hero: Cameron Clark. After starting the first 15 games of the season, the sophomore provided a scoring spark off the bench with 10 points in 14 minutes. He joined Fitzgerald, Romero Osby (18) and Steven Pledger (18) in double figures.
Key Stat: 22. The Sooners got 22 points at the free throw line, hitting 22 of 26 foul attempts. That stat speaks volumes about OU’s aggressiveness on offense and focus at the charity stripe.
Key Stat, Part II: 9. Sam Grooms finished the game with four points on 1 of 4 shooting. But nobody had a bigger impact on the outcome than Grooms who had nine assists after making a point to attack the Wildcat defense off the dribble.
Quotable: “This [win] is really big for us. The first three games teams punched us first, we were like, ‘How about we punch them first and go from there?' And we started the game off on a 7-0 run.” - Fitzgerald on the Sooners’ quick start
“I wanted to make myself a presence on the court by attacking and let them know I’m there, so they didn’t sag off or lag off [defensively]. That helped us out a lot, I attacked and they responded which lead to easy shots.” - Grooms
“That’s why I tell you guys that cover our team to not look at a team’s record. Did Oklahoma look like a team that was 0-3 in conference play today? Did they look like a team that scored 48 points their last game out? You know, those kids are good. They’re very well coached, they have very good players, and they came out today with a purpose.” - K-State coach Frank Martin