Freshman guard Buddy Hield and the Sooners found that out Tuesday evening as his potential game-tying free throw clanked off the back iron with 3.7 seconds to play and the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks snapped OU’s 36-game home run against out-of-conference opponents with a 56-55 victory at Lloyd Noble Center.
“Going to the line, I was focused but just shot the [second] one too hard,” said Hield, who calmly knocked down the first of two to give them a chance to tie it and send it to overtime. “It’s a frustrating moment right now for me. Being in the gym shooting free throws all day and shooting jump shots, you expect a player like me to hit those free throws.”
The first one might have won the game had he got a little bit of luck on the play.
Head coach Lon Kruger drew up a ball screen with forward Romero Osby freeing Hield for a drive or kick option to sharpshooting guard Steven Pledger; Hield didn’t need the pick and instead drove left freely to the cup thanks to a cheating defender.
However, the shot just came off short on the contact.
“Yeah, Buddy got to the rim,” Kruger said. “Weak side if they would have rotated over and helped, then had Pledge coming off a screen on the weak side. But he got right to the rim, so certainly the option was take it to the rim and score or find Pledge on the weak side off the pick.”
It didn’t necessarily have to come down to that, though.
Leading by one with less than five minutes to play, twice the Sooners had chances to extend their advantage but turned it over both times.
“We had one opportunity to take it out and we turned it over at that point and they shot a layup at the other end,” Kruger said. “So yeah, when you get that momentum and you get caught up like we did, you need to try to go ahead and try to move it on out and we didn’t.”
The Sooners caught up from being 11 down in the second half at the 12:52 mark.
They used an 18-6 run over the next 5:24 to do so.
That included spans of 4:50 and 2:24 without buckets for the Lumberjacks.
It also featured Pledger getting into a bit of a rhythm with a couple critical jumpers as part of his team-leading 12 points.
“I just wanted to get mid-range shots that get everybody going,” Pledger said. “When I started hitting shots, started coming back, it got everybody else in it more. When I do that, I know the team’s going to follow suit. I was just trying to hit shots, for the team, basically.”
Guard Je’lon Hornbeak, after a poor showing the other night against Texas A&M, did his part as well.
He managed 12 points and finished as the second Sooner in double figures on his 4-for-9 shooting to go along with three assists and three boards.
But the Sooner starting bigs were relative non-factors once again.
Forwards Romero Osby and Amath M’Baye combined for 11 points and just seven boards.
Osby battled foul trouble throughout.
“It was frustrating because you want to be out there helping your team,” Osby said. “But I really couldn’t dwell on that much; I was trying to cheer on my guys.”
For yet another game, the Sooners struggled shooting.
They hit just 37.9 percent of their field goal attempts, while Stephen F. Austin was hardly better at 39.3 percent.
Still, the Lumberjacks, led by forward Taylor Smith’s 14 and guard Hal Bateman’s 13, got the scores when they needed them.
Stephen F. Austin had 17 assists to 13 turnovers, while OU distributed just six helpers to 13 turns.
The Sooners (7-3) get their second extended break before hosting Ohio at 7 p.m. CT Dec. 29 at Lloyd Noble Center.
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