Oklahoma Sooners: Romero Osby

Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. For the second straight year, Oklahoma didn't have a player taken in the NBA draft. The last Sooners taken in the draft were in 2010 as Willie Warren and Tiny Gallon were both second-round picks. Warren has made a minimal impact in the NBA, and Gallon has played solely in the NBA Development League. With five scholarship seniors on their roster this season, the Sooners have a chance to have a player drafted next year. Romero Osby, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 12.9 points per game last season, is probably OU's best bet.

2. Jake noted some of what Phil Steele wrote about the Sooners in his College Football Preview magazine on our blog. Steele, who goes as in-depth on the college football season as any writer in the country, ranks OU's Michael Hunnicutt as the No. 8 kicker in the nation. I remember at this time last year OU fans lamenting another season with Jimmy Stevens. Isn't it amazing how quickly things change?
Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. The NBA draft is on Thursday night but no Sooners are expected to be selected, which is no surprise. Lon Kruger’s squad returns the majority of its key contributors as C.J. Washington was the lone scholarship senior on the squad last season.

2. Bob Stoops weighed in on the upcoming four-team playoff on Wednesday. The Sooners football coach is happy the bowl system will remain in place and the regular season will continue to be important.

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Immediate impact of Ryan Spangler's addition to Oklahoma’s mens basketball program is easy to see:

The Sooners have one more scholarship player on campus heading into 2013-14.

[+] EnlargeRyan Spangler
Robert Johnson/Icon SMIRyan Spangler will be able to contribute for the Sooners in the 2013-2014 season.
While that sounds like a simple analysis, one glance at OU’s roster shows the observation goes much deeper. The Sooners ended the season with six scholarship juniors including forward Romero Osby, guard Steven Pledger and guard Sam Grooms.

In other words, OU’s roster will be gutted after the 2012-13 season.

And Spangler, who chose to leave Gonzaga after one season and will be a sophomore, will be poised to step right in and become a core member of the 2013-14 squad. A former Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year from Bridge Creek, Okla., Spangler averaged 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds in 22 games for Gonzaga but wanted to play closer to home.

"It's always extra special to have in-state guys as part of the OU program," said Kruger, "Although Ryan enjoyed his time at Gonzaga we're especially pleased that he's returning home to be a Sooner. He's a very natural rebounder, a tough guy on the boards and has an ability to score inside and outside. Ryan's work ethic will allow him to make great strides during his redshirt season."

Spangler is likely to join Amath M'Baye, Cameron Clark and Tyler Neal as the foundation of the 2013-14 team after he sits out this season. Incoming freshman Buddy Hield, Je'lon Hornbeak and Isaiah Cousins will also be battling to contribute. Spangler joins fellow 2012 spring signee D.J. Bennett">D.J. Bennett as the lone post players amongst that group.

At 6-foot-8, 232 pounds, Spangler is a versatile big man who should earn significant playing time immediately and become a core member of OU’s post rotation. He’s an efficient scorer who can shoot and prefers to face up and use his athleticism against defenders.

Having Spangler spending a season learning Kruger’s expectations cannot be overlooked. And having another 6-foot-8 post player already in the fold will change Kruger’s recruiting approach. While OU will still need to recruit additional size, the need is lessened by Spangler’s (and Bennett’s) presence.

Overall, the addition of Spangler to the Sooners’ roster is a great development for OU. He’ll help immediately as a sophomore in 2013-14 and don’t be surprised if he develops into a double-double player (double figure points and rebounds) during his career in crimson and cream.
With the signing of D.J. Bennett (Ottumwa, Iowa/Indian Hills CC), Oklahoma added size to its roster to finalize Lon Kruger’s first recruiting class in Norman.

A 6-foot-8 shot blocking forward, Bennett averaged nine points and six rebounds as Indian Hills went 33-4 this season.

“He brings high energy, shot-blocking ability and rebounding skills,” Kruger said in a release. “He also has the potential to be more of a scorer in the low post than he has been."

Bennett could fill a role similar to departing senior C.J. Washington, who brought defense, energy and rebounding off the bench for last year’s Sooner squad. He gives Kruger another option in the post along with Romero Osby, Andrew Fitzgerald and Casey Arent.

A junior with two years of eligibility remaining, Bennett could also provide a scoring option in the post if he continues to improve his offensive post game. After scoring double figures only two times in his first 25 games of last season, he scored double figures in 10 of his final 12 outings.

"D.J.'s a fantastic athlete," Indian Hills coach Barrett Peery said in a release. "Activity is his best asset. He can really run, he can really get on the rim and can rebound and block shots with his activity, his length and his bounce.

“He brings high energy, shot-blocking ability and rebounding skills. He also has the potential to be more of a scorer in the low post than he has been."
Wyoming transfer Amath M'Baye should have a immediate impact on Oklahoma’s basketball squad in the 2012-13 season.

His talent and competitive nature has been on display during his transfer season as he challenged his teammates while playing on the scout team.

“He clearly is the most competitive [player on the roster],” coach Lon Kruger said. “And that will change a lot of the other guys.”

Kruger also expects M'Baye to step in as a leader on the squad.

“Amath is very naturally a leader,” Kruger said. “This year we had guys, [Romero Osby] really worked at it, but that’s not his natural personality. For Amath it is. That’s good for the other guys, it’s one less thing they have to worry about and Amath wants that.”
Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger was pleased with his team’s effort during his first season, despite the Sooners' 15-16 record.

But Kruger has consistently said his team needs to have a better understanding of how hard they must compete to be successful.

[+] EnlargeSteven Pledger, Ray Turner
Peter G. Aiken/US PresswireOklahoma junior guard Steven Pledger average 16.2 points per game this season.
“We can do a better job of that as a staff,” Kruger said of promoting competitiveness. “There’s a fine line there, you want to promote confidence, you want to promote 'Keep working at it,' but we have to demand more physical play.”

Kruger believes forwards Romero Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald can be more physical along with leading scorer Steven Pledger.

“Steven can be more physical,” he said. “For all he did scoring-wise, he has to do a lot more rebounding-wise, defensively. He’s got a big body, use it more.”

With three-straight losing seasons, Kruger is fighting to keep negativity -- and a losing mindset -- out of the program.

“They have to raise the expectations they have for themselves,” Kruger said. “There’s no one in our program that knows the standard of winning Big 12 games, they’ve never done it. Ww have to keep working to establish that, establish expectations. We have to expect more.”

Oklahoma's struggles in close games is one of the defining aspects of this year’s squad.

“If you look at every game, there were stretches in every game were we played well enough,” Kruger said. “But there were too many stretches when we didn’t play well. We have to treat each possession with more importance.”
Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. The beginning of the 2013 recruiting cycle for Oklahoma has been very intriguing. The Sooners continue to branch out nationally and pursue the nation’s best players from coast-to-coast. The result: Two commitments, each from the state of Texas (Keith Ford, Matt Dimon).

This change in recruiting philosophy will take time but it is worth it. Lon Kruger mentioned the Sooners brand recognition as one of the things that intrigued him about the job. And that’s basketball. So while the OU emblem on the shirt will get the coaching staff in the recruits' doors, it still takes time to build the relationships that result in recruiting success. So while it might not pay off in the next year or two, it will pay off long term and continue to pay off because OU has a combination of tradition, atmosphere and success that is difficult to match.

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Oklahoma’s season ended with a thud on Wednesday night.

The Sooners suffered a 62-53 loss to Texas A&M in the first round of the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo., after defeating the same Aggies squad just five days earlier. It is the third-straight losing season for OU, who finished 15-16 overall and 5-13 in Big 12 regular season play.

OU’s leading scorer Steven Pledger was held to six points, his lowest point total since Feb. 18 and just the third time he didn’t score in double figures since Jan. 9. He finished 2-of-8 from the field including 0-of-4 from the three point line but did have three assists.

Player of the Game: Romero Osby. The junior scored 17 points on just six shots. He was 9 of 12 from the free throw line, so he was involved in the offensive attack and he did a good job handling the Aggies increased defensive attention on him after his career-high 24-point outburst against A&M on March 3.

Unsung Hero: Sam Grooms. The junior point guard was the only other Sooner in double figures with 13 points. He was 5 of 12 from the field with four assists and four turnovers, an unusual 1:1 assist-turnover ratio for the junior. Grooms sensed his team needed additional scoring, with Cameron Clark and Steven Pledger shooting 4-of-15 combined, so he attacked the basket and managed to keep the Sooners in the game despite their offense sputtering.

Key Stat: 13. The Aggies had 13 offensive rebounds leading to 15 second-chance points. Their offensive rebounding and 88.2 percent shooting from the foul line helped offset their 38.2 percent shooting from the field.

Quotable: “We tied the game up, fought back. Missed two shots and had two turnovers and they converted on both of those possessions and they went back up four. When you miss easy ones around the rim and you turn the ball over, you give Big 12 teams the opportunity to go back the other way and to make plays, they're going to do it.” -- Grooms on the Sooners struggles down the stretch.

“When you don't win a lot of games, as many as you want to, consistency is probably going to be a problem. Whether it be maybe turnovers one night or offensive boards, generally it's a stretch in the ballgame we had difficulty in overcoming.” --Kruger on his team’s struggles to win.

“Generally I thought they played with a certain level of enthusiasm, consistently worked hard every day in practice to get better. I liked that about this group from the start.” -- Kruger on his first season in Norman.

Up Next: The Sooners are goin’ fishin’ ... OU is unlikely to receive an NIT bid and accepting a CBI invitation doesn’t make sense for the Sooners.
It will be a different feeling for Oklahoma. The Sooners enter Wednesday night’s game against Texas A&M knowing they defeated the Aggies in their last meeting. OU battles Texas A&M in the first round of the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo.

The Sooners haven’t faced an opponent they had already beaten since Jan. 28 against Kansas State.

OU takes on the Aggies after a 65-62 win over Texas A&M on March 3, in a game which the Sooners finally made the plays at the end to secure a victory. The season series is tied 1-1 with A&M taking a 81-75 victory over the Sooners on Jan. 21.

Key to OU win: Continued strong play from Cameron Clark. The sophomore has played increasingly better in the Sooners last four games and his athleticism and aggression. When Clark plays well he’s a terrific complement to Steven Pledger and Romero Osby.

Key to A&M win: Quality play by point guard Dash Harris. In the Aggies win over OU, Harris had 14 points six assists. In their loss, he finished with five points, four assists and four turnovers.

Stat line that will tell the tale: OU assists. If the Sooners assist numbers are high, that means Sam Grooms probably won the point guard battle with Harris. If he does, OU’s chances of advancing increase.

Sooners X factor: Andrew Fitzgerald. Romero Osby was a terror against the Aggies on Saturday, scoring a career-high 24 points, so expect Texas A&M to have a plan to slow Osby. That’s where Fitzgerald could step in with his terrific mid-range shooting when Osby attacks the basket.

Aggies X factor: David Loubeau. He’s averaging 15.5 points per game in two meetings with the Sooners and shooting 61 percent from the field. If the Aggies feed him the ball and he continues to score efficiently, it will make Texas A&M much more explosive on offense.
Oklahoma has its eyes on playing in the postseason.

The Sooners could play their way into the NCAA tournament with an improbable undefeated run through the Big 12 tournament. Or OU could earn an NIT berth with a solid showing at the Big 12 tourney, most likely needing to win at least two games for a chance.

Regardless, the Sooners enter the tourney with some momentum, having split their last four games after losing six straight games to begin February. OU has beaten Oklahoma State and Texas A&M in the past two weeks and will face the Aggies for the third time this season on Wednesday in Kansas City. If the Sooners win they would play top-seeded Kansas on Thursday at 2 p.m. CT.

Here are the keys to the Sooners winning at least one game during the Big 12 tournament, thus giving themselves hope of an NIT birth:

(Read full post)

Sam Grooms was beaming, Cameron Clark had a big smile as he headed up the tunnel and Romero Osby stood waiting for a post game interview with a satisfied look on his face.

It’s always good to get a win.

Oklahoma knocked off Texas A&M 65-62 on Saturday afternoon at the Lloyd Noble Center in a game that didn’t mean much in the overall scheme of things. But the Sooners (15-15 overall, 5-13 in Big 12), who were locked in to face the Aggies (13-17, 4-14) again on Wednesday -- win or loss -- earned eighth place in the Big 12 with Saturday’s win.

It was also the Sooners second straight home victory.

OU executed down the stretch, by far the most encouraging aspect of the game, to put away the Aggies after surrendering a 14-point lead in the second half.

Player of the Game: Osby. The junior has his best offensive game of the season with a career-high 24 points on 11 of 15 shooting. He was aggressive and unstoppable inside as the Sooners scored 28 points in the paint.

Unsung Hero: Grooms. The junior point guard has quietly become one of the conference’s most consistent players. He finished with seven points and seven assists with just two turnovers. More importantly, he scored or assisted on OU’s final 12 points.

“I was tired of games being close [then losing] and me not doing anything about it,” Grooms said. “And I was tired of hearing Coach (Lon Kruger) saying something to me about it.

“So, I made up my mind I’m going to try to do what ever I need to do to get a win.”

Key Stat: 81.3. The Sooners shot 13 of 16 from the free throw line (81.3%) while the Aggies were 6 of 9 (66.7%) from the foul line.

Quotable: “All those games come down to just a play or two that swing the game one direction or another. Those games that we lose, we miss an opportunity or two and the other team scores. The games we win like we did today, we scored and got a stop.” -- OU coach Lon Kruger on winning close games

“Coach is always calm, so when you look at him and he’s showing no emotion, you want to execute for him. It’s stuff we’ve been working on in practice every day and we’re finally starting to get it. It’s hard working in a system you’ve never playing in before and being expected to execute it under pressure, late in a game. And we’re starting to execute now.” --Grooms on OU’s late game execution

“It was a good win for our guys. Obviously the ball game could have gone either way. With A&M, games have always gone down to the wire.” -- Kruger

“The difference was we had a hard time guarding in the post. They got a little bit closer to the basket and were able to score on us.” -- A&M coach Billy Kennedy

Up next: vs. No. 9 seed Texas A&M on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City

Preview: Oklahoma at No. 14 Baylor

February, 25, 2012
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For the first time this month, Oklahoma enters a game with a happy vibe after winning its first contest since Jan. 28 with a 77-64 victory over Oklahoma State on Wednesday.

The Sooners hope to carry that winning momentum to Waco, Texas, as they take on No. 14 Baylor Saturday at 12:47 p.m. CT. The Bears have struggled in recent weeks, going 2-3 in their past five games with losses to Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri.

Key to OU win: Hitting perimeter shots. If Baylor plays zone like they did in the first meeting, the Sooners can count on Steven Pledger to shoot well (42.9 percent from three-point line) but OU will need Cameron Clark, Carl Blair, Tyler Neal and, most importantly, Sam Grooms to shoot the ball well from the perimeter.

Key to BU win: Limiting the Bears’ open looks from beyond the arc. Perry Jones, Pierre Jackson and Quincy Miller will probably draw most of the attention but Brady Heslip and Anthony Jones can make OU pay if the Sooners leave them open.

Stat line that will tell the tale: Baylor's field goal percentage. Allowing teams to shoot 50 percent or higher has become too commonplace for OU. If they can keep the Bears below 50 percent shooting their chances to win improve significantly because it means the Sooners forced Baylor to take difficult shots.

Sooners X factor: Sam Grooms. Baylor is going to force the OU point guard to make outside shots. If he can do it, it will take the Bears out of their defensive game plan.

Bears X factor: Quincy Miller. The freshman had a subpar game in the first meeting (five points) but he averages 12.0 points per game. He has the size and talent to make a huge impact on Saturday.

Triple Option: Sooners take down rival 

February, 23, 2012
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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. The Oklahoma basketball team finally got a win on Wednesday night, snapping its six-game losing streak with a 77-64 victory over Oklahoma State at the Lloyd Noble Center. Playing in front of the most vocal crowd of the season, the Sooners controlled the game throughout except for a five-minute stretch to begin the second half.

Forward Romero Osby, who had the highlight of the night with a spectacular dunk that was called a charge, spoke about not really understanding the intensity of Bedlam in the first meeting between the two teams. It was clear on Wednesday night that the Sooners learned how intense they would have to play to have success in the rivalry.

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NORMAN, Okla. -- We’ve seen this before.

Oklahoma stumbled out of the locker room, having left its first-half intensity in the bowels of the Lloyd Noble Center as Oklahoma State charged back from a large halftime deficit.

Except this time the Sooners responded.

OU rebuffed an early second half run by OSU to secure a 77-64 win over the Cowboys on Wednesday night. The Sooners snapped their six-game losing streak with the win, their first since Jan. 28.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Fitzgerald
Mark D. Smith/US PresswireAndrew Fitzgerald had six points and six rebounds in OU's win over Oklahoma State.
“It feels good to finally get a win,” forward Romero Osby said. “I don’t really sleep well after losses. It felt good to get a win, we really needed one.”

OSU went on a 24-11 run to start the second half after OU took a 30-12 advantage into the locker room, mirroring the second half struggles that have doomed the Sooners to several losses including recent defeats to Texas, Iowa State and Texas Tech.

“I am really proud of our guys (for) responding the way they did to the Cowboys’ run,” said OU head coach Lon Kruger.

After the Cowboys cut OU’s lead to 42-39 with 13:05 left in the game, Osby turned up his intensity. The junior scored two baskets and grabbed two rebounds in a four-minute stretch which saw the Sooners go on a 9-0 run to take a 51-39 lead.

OSU never came within nine points for the remainder of the contest.

“We did a good job of getting right back in the ball game,” Kruger said. “With our run it popped (the lead) back out to nine or 12 there and we played to that margin the rest of the way.”

The Sooners smothering defense was the story of the first half.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Oklahoma 77, OSU 64

February, 22, 2012
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Oklahoma snapped its six-game losing streak with a 77-64 win over Oklahoma State at Lloyd Noble Center on Wednesday night.

The Sooners’ second half struggles continued against the Cowboys as OSU started the second half by going on a 24-11 run to eventually cut OU’s lead to 42-39. But the Sooners responded with an 8-0 run of their own and pulled away in the final ten minutes to cruise to the win.

Player of the Game: Romero Osby. When OSU made its run early in the second half, it was Osby who became more aggressive and scored two layups to spark the 8-0 run. Osby finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Unsung Hero: Tyler Neal. The sophomore provided a great spark off the bench for the Sooners finishing with 9 points and 3 rebounds in 20 minutes.

Key Stat: 7. The Sooners finished the game with seven blocks which helped limit the Cowboys to eight points in the paint.

Key Stat II: 15. The Sooners outrebounded Oklahoma State 46 to 31 -- a difference of 15 -- in the game as OU dominated inside throughout the night.

Up Next For Oklahoma: at Baylor at 12:30 p.m. CT on Saturday.

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