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January 22, 2013

Osby's career night powers OU past Texas

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NORMAN, Okla. -- The seats at Lloyd Noble Center were covered with shirts, white T-shirts. Across the chest of those shirts were words written in red. They read "Cheer Like a Champion", and Oklahoma hoped the crowd of 7,335 would give them an edge in the first of two contests this season with the Longhorns.

Tonight was a Big Monday game with an 8:30 p.m. tip on national television and a tumultuous day of college hoops had already served to further separate Oklahoma from its Big 12 rivals. The Baylor Bears had dispatched the boys from Stillwater, putting more distance between the top and bottom half of the conference.

Now the Sooners needed to beat an already bruised Texas team to remain among the Big 12 elite. A loss would prove them more pretender than contender.


The Longhorns have owned OU lately, winning 13 of the last 15 contests between them. But the Sooners pounced on an opportunity to deal Texas a double dose of frustration.

With OU's 73-67 win against Texas, Oklahoma both defeated its most reviled rival and secured a dubious honor for the 2012-13 Longhorns. Texas is 0-5 in conference play for the first time in Big 12 history.

With 1:42 left in the game, chants of "JUST LIKE FOOTBALL!" rang from a truly raucous student section at Lloyd Noble to add insult to an injured Texas (8-10, 0-5 Big 12) team.

Senior forward Romero Osby had never beaten Texas. He immediately expressed his happiness to teammate and senior point guard Sam Grooms once he knew the task was finished.

"I said 'We finally got these guys,'" Osby said.

Osby led the way to victory with a career-high 29 points and eight boards. It was his night as he also hit the Sooners' first 3-pointer of the game making him 3-for-5 from beyond the arc this season.

He attributed his success to his teammates' vision and his want to attack the basket as the minutes and seconds ticked away.

"It's just a testament to my teammates and coach," Osby said. "Coach was running stuff for me. My teammates were finding me and giving me the ball. So I didn't have to do much with it, but just make a move. The 29 points came from them. They really helped me, and things were just clicking for me a little bit tonight."

His play impressed most, if not all who attended the game, including Texas men's basketball coach Rick Barnes.

"We really believe that Osby is one of the best players in the league," Barnes said.

Both teams started the game with an ode to 'Keystone Cops', combining for 21 turnovers and just 24 field goals in the first half. Texas did Hank Mann proud by accounting for eight turnovers in the first five minutes of the game.

"If I were watching on TV, I would've turned it off," Barnes said.

Longhorn sophomore Sheldon McClelland was Texas' only dominant scorer in the half with 11 points, nearly hitting his average of 14.5 points per game. He finished with 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting.

Oklahoma managed to find its offense in the first half with the combination of a veteran and a young buck. Freshman guard Buddy Hield and Osby hit a combined 9-of-14 shots in the first half and scored 20 of Oklahoma's 30 points in the first 20 minutes.

Hield has proven instrumental to the Sooners' success this season. His stat line against Texas continues to show the steady progress he's made in his first season as a Sooner: 12 points, four assists, four rebounds, two blocks, two steals.

He provided junior forward Amath M'Baye with plenty of opportunities to showcase dunk skills and fed off the energy his alley-oops to M'Baye provided. M'Baye was the only other Sooner to score double figures with 15 points, five boards and a block, but he was quick to compliment Osby on a game he'd expected to see this season from his fellow team captain.

"I'm not surprised to see Ro get a game like that," M'Baye said. "I see him in practice every day, and he's one of the hardest working players I've ever played with, whether it was in Europe or here. He's just a workhorse."

In Kruger's first season, Oklahoma won just 15 games and was hanging about at the bottom of the Big 12 standings. This season the Sooners are two wins from matching that total, and they might be just a few more from winning the hearts and minds of the Sooner faithful.

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