It was the same things that plagued Ohio in previous road losses to Robert Morris, Memphis and Massachusetts. A bad stretch on offense, coupled with a perimeter player from the other team catching fire. It’s a lethal combination that has led to monster runs by the opposition, and has left Ohio in the dust.
This time in Norman, Okla. the opposing player who caught fire was Steve Pledger. The Soooner guard scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the second half to help the Sooners turn a close game into a comfortable 74-63 victory.
The Sooners went on runs of 12-3 and 13-2 in the second half, the latter one after Ohio had climbed to within four, to run away from the Bobcats. The loss dropped Ohio’s record to a disappointing 8-5 and 0-4 on the road.
“Too many live-ball turnovers. It’s the same stuff that’s been happening, we’ve just got to clean it up and get better,” said Ohio head coach Jim Christian.
Ohio was led once again by D.J. Cooper. Cooper scored 14 points and dished out seven assists while Reggie Keely had 13 points and eight rebounds in his second straight start. Walter Offutt hit three treys and finished with 11 points.
The Bobcats once again struggled to protect the ball, committing 18 turnovers which led to 22 points for the Sooners. Ivo Baltic had six giveaways and Cooper had five, while Offutt and Ricardo Johnson each committed three.
Ohio started hot, hitting three of their first five shots from long range, including two from Cooper to take an early 17-12 lead. But just as they did in road losses to Memphis and Massachusetts, Ohio hit a cold spell, missing seven straight three-point attempts as the Sooners went on a 13-4 run to go in front 25-21.
Ohio was able to finish the half with a mini 8-4 run of their own, capped by a Baltic three to knot the game at 29 heading into the break.
The Bobcats held the Sooners to just 30 percent from the field in the first half, but committed 11 turnovers to keep Oklahoma in the game.
The Sooners opened the second half with a 12-3 burst to take a 41-32 lead before Pledger caught fire. The senior guard knocked-down four straight jumpers for nine points to keep Ohio at bay and extend the Sooners largest lead of the game to 54-43.
Offutt kept the Bobcats close with two threes and a layup, and a dunk from Jon Smith brought Ohio to within four, 56-52 with seven minutes to play.
But Oklahoma responded with yet another monster run, this one sparked by two dunks from Cameron Clark as the Sooners went on a 13-2 run to grab a 15-point lead, sealing Ohio’s fate.
“You can’t turn the ball over the amount of times we’ve turned the ball over. You can’t not guard in key possessions. You can’t allow teams to get on those types of runs,” said a frustrated Christian. “For whatever reason we’re a lot more stagnant on the road, guys aren’t playing with as much confidence as they are at home. They almost rely on D.J. a little too much.”
The Bobcats shot 47.2 percent (25-53) from the field but just 30.8 percent (8-26) from beyond the arc. Nick Kellogg injured two of his fingers vs. Massachusetts and has not made a field goal since. Kellogg followed up his 0-6 shooting performance against Maryland-Eastern Shore with another 0-6 effort in this game, all from downtown. He was hitting 46 percent from long range (23-50) before going 0-11 over these last two games to drop to 37.7 percent for the season.
“There isn’t one thing, it’s a lot of things,” said Christian, who also mentioned a lack of practice time over Christmas break and conditioning issues as playing a part in the loss.
With conference play 11 days away, Ohio must clean up their mistakes in a hurry. They will welcome Marshall (7-6) to the Convocation Center on Saturday to end a difficult non-conference schedule, before hosting Buffalo on January 9th.
Notes: Oklahoma came into the game having won 36 of their last 37 and 94 of their last 97 non-conference home games….Baltic made a free throw for the first time since Feb. 22 2012.