I recently found myself back in Norman for a weekend and had the pleasure of returning to the Lloyd Noble Center to watch the OU Men’s Basketball team take on hated archrival Texas. Armed with my expired student ID and a passion for most things Sooner Sports (YOU GUYS IT’S ALMOST SOFTBALL SEASON) I went to the game eager to check out the new-look Sooners. OU basketball in the post-Griffin era has been fluctuating on a scale between mediocre and outright terrible. This year’s team, however, is playing at a higher level (sitting at 13-4 overall with a 4-1 mark in conference play) and is generally enjoyable to watch. What follows is a series of observations in true Field Report style about a huge win for the team both on the court and in the mindshare of the student body.
- The free giveaway for this particular game was shooter sleeves. Almost everyone in the student section had their sleeves on to go with the designated “Cheer Like a Champion” t-shirts. I still have no idea what the purpose of the shooter sleeve is, but you can be sure that I felt like I had much more basketball ability while I was wearing mine.
- The student section was full and mostly rowdy for the entire game. Gone were the days where I could show up 20 minutes before the game and make my way down to the floor seats of the student section. I was very impressed with the crowd for this game.
- Unrelated to this game but a story worth telling: When the UConn women’s team came to Norman in the middle of their historic winning streak, I was in one of the floor seats, a stone’s throw from the UConn bench. When the game got out of hand, I turned my attention not to the game but to UConn Coach Geno Auriemma and heckled him for a while. I was deathly afraid that he might “know a guy” that would meet me in the parking lot, but that didn’t stop me from being obnoxious. BASKETBALL!
- One person in the student section selected a player seemingly at random and ragged on him the whole night. Chants of “Felix sucks!” rang down on him, cheers when he entered/left the game, derisive taunts at every turnover, it was a thing of beauty.
- OU’s intro video utilizes the same style as the wonderful Miami Heat “All of the Lights” video, except the Sooners are wearing their jerseys and are actually playing basketball.
- My favorite player on this OU team is walk-on guard, trick shot enthusiast, and Club Tril member James Fraschilla. This may or may not be because he was nice to Chase and me at a Hoodie Allen concert.
Fraschilla is a genuinely great guy, a superb team chemist and a celebration phenom. I was super disappointed when Texas got some garbage time points and killed any chance of him getting on the floor.
- Texas didn’t make it down the court for about 5 straight possessions without stepping on the sideline or traveling. This got the crowd even more riled up and ready to go.
- LOB CITY. Some of the most fantastic plays for the Sooners were alley-oops thrown from all over the court. We didn’t run my favorite play, an inbounds oop to Romero Osby that has been excecuted to perfection in several previous outings, but Amath M’Baye had several thunderous dunks, even making Sportscenter with a series of throwdowns.
- Every time the crowd seemed to slow down or get out of the game, M’Baye or Osby would respond with an unreal dunk that got the crowd back on their feet.
- M’Baye (I think) also had the wettest shot I’ve ever seen on a reverse layup. The net didn’t move an inch. I thought he missed it for sure. It was awe-inspiring.
- Romero Osby plays like a man among boys some times. Whether it was using his incredible athleticism to get to the rim, showing off some excellent post moves, or drilling a stepback three, he was getting buckets whenever he wanted. He scored 29 when the team won 73-67. Between Osby and M’Baye, it’s clear that this team wants to work inside out and they have the talent to do so.
- Hey, current OU students! Here’s a free idea. Get a group to go to basketball games in tacky red sweaters. Call yourselves the Osby Kids. Pass out Jello Pudding and yell things about THEO and such. If nothing else, you’ll get on TV every game.
- I watch too much NBA basketball. A 40 second shot clock is excruciating.
- I am very impressed with how unselfish this Sooner team is. They look for extra passes, try to find open looks when they drive into traffic, and players who were starters last year like Andrew Fitzgerald, Cameron Clark and Sam Grooms are making impacts coming off the bench and haven’t seemed to let the move out of the starting five affect their production. The new players, M’Baye, Buddy Hield, and Je’lon Hornbeak, are stepping into their roles nicely and play well alongside Osby and Irrational Confidence Hero Steven Pledger
- Pledger’s development as a player is so much fun to watch. When he first came to OU, the joke my friends and I passed around about Pledger was that his touches-to-shots ratio was as close to 1 as it could be. Needless to say, we loved him unconditionally. On Monday, Pledger wasn’t a volume shooter. He picked his spots, worked well in the halfcourt game, and played ridiculously solid defense. It was impossible for Texas’ perimeter players to shake him and he came up with a couple steals. He still took a turnaround/stepback/catch-and-shoot 3 and reminded me why I loved him.
- The final score may look close, but the Sooners really outplayed Texas for a majority of the game. There was a bit of garbage time scoring to get the game where it ended, but free throws put it away again. If this team can shore up their outside shooting, especially from 3, get a bit more production from second unit, and continue to work their inside advantage, they’re going to be a tournament team who could make some noise in the Big 12.
- While there’s a (somewhat correct) stereotype that OU fans only care about the football team while several great teams pass them by in other sports, this culture is starting to change. The students really bought into the basketball game on Monday, and Coach Lon Kruger has done wonders in making the team accessible, watchable, and charismatic. With men’s basketball on the rise and women’s basketball, baseball and softball (GO WATCH SOFTBALL! SERIOUSLY! THAT TEAM IS SO GOOD! This has been your shameless plug from a founding member of Patty’s Peanut Gallery) continuing to succeed, it won’t be long before Oklahoma is truly more than just football.