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November 11, 2012

M'Baye debuts, but Pledger shines in home opener

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Like most Oklahoma fans, Dominique Ba was ready to see junior forward Amath M'Baye play regular season basketball again. But Ba was excited for a reason no one else can claim.

M'Baye is her son.

Ba was in the midst of 20-day stay in Norman from her home in Bordeaux, France, when the Sooners (1-0) opened the 2012-13 regular season with a convincing 85-51 win against Louisiana-Monroe (0-1). Prior to the start of the game at Lloyd Noble Center she was giddy for her son.

HD: RJ Young and Eddie Radosevich breakdown Sooners opener

"A great sensation," Ba said. "Even more because my son was almost two years without (regular season) play. It was a big thing for him. It was very important. That's part of why I wanted to be here."

For his part, M'Baye started the game and scored 12 points, grabbed nine rebounds and recorded two blocks in his regular season debut. M'Baye was thinking about his mother throughout the game Sunday afternoon.

"I was looking over at her all the time," M'Baye said. "I mean, that's my mom. I think about her all the time."

M'Baye was one of three OU upper-classmen to score double-digit points along with senior forward Andrew Fitzgerald and senior 2-guard Steven Pledger.

After hitting just 3-of-10 3-point opportunities in the preseason, Pledger converted 5-of-9 3-point attempts for a team-high 15 points. Oklahoma men's basketball coach Lon Kruger spoke about Pledger's ability to shoot the rock in the postgame press conference.

"Steve is an excellent shooter," Kruger said. "He is always going to make shots. It was good to see him get some down tonight, and, really, it is good to see him get more opportunities."

Pledger shot 41.6 percent from beyond the arc last season, but that was with senior Sam Grooms playing most of the minutes at point guard. Freshmen guards Isaiah Cousins and Je'lon Hornbeak shared the point guard duties with Grooms Sunday, and Pledger said he and the freshmen are still getting to know each other on the court.

"It's definitely different trying to figure out when and where to meet the ball with two new guards," he said. "Last year, I knew where Sam was going to give it to me, and we talked about it a lot. I talked to the young guys and they are still trying to get a feel for things, so I just pick my spots."

Cousins and Hornbeak combined for just 10 assists and 12 points, however they turned the ball over just once between them. Kruger thought they did well to take care of the ball against a defense they don't run and don't normally see in practice.

"We work against some zone in practice, but it is not a committed zone - it's not a good zone in practice," Kruger said. "So teams that play it, play much better than what we see in practice every day."

Playing against a zone didn't stop the Sooners from controlling the paint. They outrebounded the Warhawks 49-30 and scored 42 points in the paint.

Fitzgerald accounted for six rebounds while scoring 12 points off the bench.

"It's attacking the glass hard," he said. "We put an emphasis on going to the boards hard during practice and I think it's just becoming a habit for me now."

Overall, Kruger was happy with the win. Still, he said there's work to do before the Sooners head south to face Texas-Arlington.

"We have a ways to go in all of these areas, but the good thing about these guys is it is important to them. We have about a week of practice here now in preparation for Friday."




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