Sooners sink free throws, Cyclones
NORMAN, Okla. – Oklahoma achieved perfection – at least in one phase of the game – on Saturday against Iowa State.
OU sank 34 of 34 free-throw attempts, tying an NCAA mark for most made at the foul line without a miss, in its 86-69 Big 12 victory.
Only two other times in NCAA Division I history has a team attempted at least 34 free throws without a miss. UC Irvine achieved the feat against Pacific on Feb. 21, 1981 and Samford duplicated the effort against Central Florida on Dec. 20, 1990.
“This is a good free-throw shooting team. That is extreme of course,” Sooners head coach Lon Kruger said. “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 and shoot with confidence.”
Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg praised the Sooners for their free-throw prowess.
“The NCAA has been around a long time and to equal a record is a pretty impressive performance. Free throws are contagious. When you’re making them, your teammates seem to step up and knock them down.”
The Sooners (19-9, 10-6) also showcased a high-tempo offense and a stingy defense in moving ahead of the Cyclones for fourth place in the Big 12. It also bolstered their NCAA resume while Iowa State (19-10, 9-7) fell to 2-6 on the road in conference play.
Oklahoma has one home game remaining, on Wednesday against West Virginia.
“I think the only healthy way is to approach the next one like we’ve got to have one more (win),” Kruger said.
Romero Osby scored 22 points to lead Oklahoma, with 10 of those coming from the free-throw line, all in the second half. The Sooners made 30 of their 34 foul shots in the second half.
Sam Grooms had 19 points and six assists for Oklahoma, which never trailed on Saturday. Steven Pledger added 14 points, Amath M’Baye scored 11 and Andrew Fitzgerald had 10 points – eight at the free-throw line.
With Oklahoma leading 60-45 midway through the second half, the Sooners scored 22 of their next 26 points from the free-throw line. During that time, Fitzgerald connected on six consecutive free throws, pushing the Sooner lead to 66-45.
While the Sooners were taking advantage of Iowa State’s aggressive defense, the Cyclones shot 63 percent from the free throw line, connecting on 14 of 22 attempts.
The Sooners, coming off a 92-86 overtime loss to Texas, came out strong and took a 12-2 lead in the first half. Iowa State never recovered from OU’s quick start as the Sooners maintained a fast offensive pace throughout the game. OU led by as many as 14 in the first half, taking a 40-28 lead into the locker room.
“I thought Sam (Grooms) played great and knocked down some jumpers early and got us off to a good start and took care of the ball. It was good to beat a good Iowa State ball club,” Kruger said.
Oklahoma led the Cyclones by 22 points with about eight minutes left in the game, which was the same situation against Texas before the overtime loss.
“They recovered and have done a good job all year on focusing on the next game,” Kruger said, referring to the disappointing loss at Texas. “You have to attribute that to the leadership of Roe (Osby) and the other guys. The players get over it (loss) a little more quickly than maybe coaches and fans do.”
“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 again.”
Tyrus McGee led Iowa State with 22 points. Babu Palo added 12 points and Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang scored 10 each for the Cyclones.
The Cyclones shot 43 percent from the field, making 35 percent from behind the 3-point arc. Iowa State made 11 3-pointers.
Oklahoma shot 45 percent and made 33 percent from behind the arc. The Sooners owned a 36-27 rebounding advantage.
Iowa State won the earlier meeting, 83-64 in Ames.