OU seniors go out in style with 86-69 win over ISU

33 minutes before Oklahoma's game tipped off with Iowa State, senior Romero Osby called his teammates into a huddle on the OU insignia at Lloyd Noble Center.
He knew many of the aspirations the Sooners had at the beginning of this season might hinge on the outcome of this game. So he took it upon himself, as he does before most games, to remind his teammates to be on guard when the game comes to them.
"A lot of times last year, I don't think we were ready to play and it showed in our play on the court," Osby said. "I think when we come together in the middle we always need to talk about first things first. We're a team, and we need to go out there and play as a unit and play as hard as we can on both ends."
Oklahoma heeded their captain on Senior Day as the Sooners dispatched Iowa State 86-69 Saturday afternoon.
Osby finished with 22 points, nine boards and hit all 10 of his free throw attempts. Steven Pledger showed his shooter's touch, converting 4-of-9 3-point attempts and finishing with 14 points to go with his four boards.
The win gave the Sooners sole ownership of fourth place in the Big 12 and put themselves in position to win 20 games for the first time since the 2008-09 season, while also ensuring a winning record in conference play for the first time since 2009.
The win also takes OU out of the bubble conversation and plants the Sooners firmly in the NCAA tournament.
"Last spring we had an objective of making progress and making big strides, and they've done that," said OU men's basketball coach Lon Kruger. "It doesn't happen without their commitment and investment. They've done that."
Still, with Oklahoma up 70-53 with 7:47 left to play -- the moment where things fell apart for OU against Texas earlier in the week -- the Sooners needed to put together a performance that would make the cast of "Glengarry Glen Ross" proud. After all, wins are for closers and closers hit their free throws.
The Sooners (19-9, 10-6 Big 12) converted 34 consecutive free throw attempts against Iowa State, and set a new conference record, while tying the Division-1 record.
"This is a pretty good free throw shooting team," Kruger said.
Sam Grooms followed his dismal game at Texas with a convincing outing against the Cyclones, scoring double digit points for the fourth time in Oklahoma's last five games.
He scored 13 points in the first half and finished with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting and added six dimes in 31 minutes on the floor. He was a perfect 4-of-4 from the line.
"Grooms stepped up and hit shots again," said Iowa State men's basketball coach Fred Hoiberg. "You give the kid credit for stepping up with confidence and knocking those down."
The Sooners began the game hot and remained so through the end of the first 20 minutes. They hit 16-of-31 shots in the first half, including 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Iowa State began the game as one the NCAA's best 3-point shooting teams, averaging nearly 10 made 3-point buckets per game. But the Cyclones' (19-10, 9-7 Big 12) touch was off in the first half, and they managed to hit just 4-of-16 shots from distance in the first half.
Iowa State ended hte day hitting just 11-of-31 3-point attempts.
The Cyclones attacked Oklahoma with the press that worked well for Texas just three days earlier, but the Sooners were prepared this time around.
OU committed just two turnovers in the half -- just one came against the press. The Sooners finished the game with just five turnovers.
"Coach has really been on us about making every possession important," Osby said.
When Oklahoma takes care of the basketball and hits its free throws, it's a tough team to beat.
Just ask Hoiberg.
"It's really the first time all year that we got it absolutely taken to us," Hoiberg said. "We got our butts kicked."