OU ties NCAA record with 34 of 34 free throws
Don’t foul the Oklahoma Sooners on Senior Day.
On their way to a 86-69 blowout of Iowa State last Saturday, the Sooners tied an NCAA record by hitting a perfect 34 of 34 free throw attempts.
Only two other teams in NCAA Division I history – The University of California at Irvine (vs. Pacific on Feb. 21, 1981) and Samford (vs. Central Florida on Dec. 20, 1990) – have ever hit 34 of 34 free throws in a game.
“This has been a good free throw shooting team,” said OU coach Lon Kruger. “That is extreme of course; they start making them and, like anything else, momentum builds and guys go up there expecting to make them. I didn’t realize at the time that we didn’t miss any and I don’t think they did either. It’s nice to see them get up there a shoot with confidence.”
OU has four of the five best single-game free throw shooting percentages this season among Big 12 teams. The Sooners also shot 1.000 (14-for-14) vs. TCU, .947 vs. Texas A&M and .938 vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. In its eight Big 12 home games, OU is shooting .868 from the free throw line (171-for-197).
The win put the Sooners (19-9, 10-6 in the Big 12) in sole possession of fourth place in the Big 12 and probably solidified their chance for an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Iowa State, which is on the bubble, dropped to 19-10 and 9-7.
It was senior day at OU and all four seniors scored in double figures with a total of 65 points. Senior center Casey Arent did not play due to a knee injury.
It was an important momentum win after the Sooners blew a 22-point against Texas in a loss last week.
“I thought their ability to bounce back and play like they did today is a tribute to the leadership and the older guys, especially Roe [Osby],” said Kruger. “After that disappointment on Wednesday, Roe said, `OK guys, we are going to regroup and focus on the 32 good minutes and learn from the last seven.’ I thought our guys really did that the last couple of days in practice. Roe has done that for us all year and obviously the other guys jump in there and follow his lead without hesitation.
“I thought Sam [Grooms] played great and knocked down some jumpers there early and got us to a good start and took care of the ball. The guys moved the ball well as they have been doing. Again, [good] to beat a good Iowa State ball club, but even more important is having to be able to celebrate with the seniors on their day.”
OU outrebounded ISU 36-27 and held the Cyclones to just four rebounds. The Sooners shot .442 while Iowa State shot .431.
Romero Osby scored a team-high 22 points on 6-for-11 field goal and 10-for-10 free throw shooting. He added a game-high nine rebounds as well as three assists and two blocks. Osby has led the team (or tied for the lead) in scoring in 11 of 16 conference games and has shot 50 percent or better from the field in 17 of the last 21 outings.
Osby said the Texas letdown was still fresh Saturday.
“That is funny because a couple of the Iowa State players were reminding me on the free throw line,” Osby said. “It was just something that we wanted to make sure we didn’t let happen to us again. Coach [Kruger] has really been on us about making every possession important – even if we are up 20 or down 20, we have to play the same way.”
What was the trip back from Texas like?
“Well, it was a frustrating trip on the way back because in our minds we missed a great opportunity,” Osby said. “At the same time we always say in our prayer that we give God the glory, win, lose or draw. We knew that we had to come back and bounce back from that and we were glad we had an opportunity two days later and we didn’t have to wait a week like some sports would. We had a chance to play a good Iowa State team at home and on senior night, so that was really our motivation for the fact that we had a good game coming up, against a good team, and we needed to win.”
“It is really the first time all year that we got it taken to us,” said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. “We got our butts kicked. It is a terrible feeling, especially with the magnitude of this game. This was a huge game for both teams and they stepped up to the plate to win it.”
Hoiberg, who was a record-setting shooting as a player, was impressed by OU’s free throws.
“The NCAA has been around a long time and to equal a record is a pretty impressive performance,” Hoiberg said. “Free throws are contagious. When you’re making them, your teammates seem to step up and knock them down.”
Sam Grooms scored 19 points, his second-highest career total, and handed out a season-high-tying six assists while committing just one turnover in 31 minutes. Grooms was 7-for-13 from the field (his 13 attempts were a career high.
Grooms said OU didn’t want to take a lead over Iowa State for granted.
“It was said in the huddle, `We’ve been here before, let’s not act like we haven’t done this,” Grooms said. “Let’s move forward and grow and mature as a team.’ I think that’s what we did today.”
Steven Pledger went 4-for-9 from 3-point range and scored 14 points. He passed Hollis Price on OU’s career 3-pointers list and now stands in second place with 242 makes (Terry Evans holds school record with 259). Pledger is 22-for-44 (.500) from behind the arc over the last five games (averaging 18.2 ppg).
Andrew Fitzgerald scored 10 points off the bench, the fourth time he reached double figures this year and the second time this season against Iowa State (scored a team-high 12 in Ames on Feb. 4). He was 8-for-8 from the free throw line, with the eight makes setting a career high.
Osby, Grooms, Pledger and Fitzgerald are all seniors.
OU hosted West Virginia Wednesday night and will end the regular season Saturday at 4 p.m. at TCU.