Sooners snap No. 22 K-State's win streak, 63-60
MANHATTAN, Kan.—The cell phone that was doubling as a tape recorder on the table in front of Frank Martin lit up, someone texting a report about No. 22 Kansas State's loss to Oklahoma.
The message said: "Well, that was discouraging."
Martin looked at the phone, asked a room full of sheepish reporters who it was sending the text message, then said glumly, "You can tell her I'm discouraged, too."
Steven Pledger scored 30 points and Oklahoma weathered a second-half charge by No. 22 Kansas State and some tense moments down the stretch for a 63-60 victory Saturday night.
Sam Grooms made a key steal in the closing minute and two free throws with 5 seconds left for the Sooners (13-7, 3-5 Big 12), who watched as Rodney McGruder's potential tying 3-pointer from the wing at the buzzer bounced off the back iron.
"I had a clean look," McGruder said. "Just came up short."
McGruder finished with 19 points and Angel Rodriguez had 10 for the Wildcats (15-5, 4-4), who trailed by 10 in the second half but went on a 12-2 run and later pulled into the lead.
The Sooners led 59-56 on a pair of free throws by Pledger with 1:07 left, but Will Spradling trimmed the lead to a point on a slicing layup moments later.
It was still 59-58 when the Wildcats' Jordan Henriquez corralled a loose ball on defense with just over 10 seconds remaining, but Grooms managed to poke it loose before it could be cleared.
Romero Osby hit two free throws to restore Oklahoma's three-point lead, and the Sooners fouled Henriquez on purpose with 5.2 seconds left. He made both fouls shots to get Kansas State within 61-60, but Grooms came through with his free throws to make it 63-60.
That wound up being the final margin.
"You can't lose at home," Martin said. "I don't care how you get it done, you can't lose at home. We've been pretty good at that. It's disappointing."
It was Kruger's first game back in Bramlage Coliseum as the opposing coach.
Kruger was a star for the Wildcats in the 1970s, twice earning Big 8 player of the year honors, and later returned as an assistant coach. Kruger then came back as head coach when Jack Hartman retired and led the Wildcats to four consecutive NCAA tournaments.
He received a nice round of applause when he walked onto the court before the game.
"Pales by comparison to what it means to the players," Kruger said. "They're not aware where I went to school."
Actually, Lon, they are.
"This is where he rocked out on the court," Pledger said, "so this is great."
Rodriguez gave the Wildcats a spark in the opening minutes, scoring eight of their first 13 points, but the Sooners quickly reeled them in and eventually pulled ahead.
Cameron Clark went soaring for an alley-oop dunk for Oklahoma late in the first half, and Pledger's 3-pointer just before halftime gave the Sooners a 34-28 lead.
"They made it a real physical game," Martin said. "We didn't respond."
Spradling had fits trying to guard Pledger, who came in averaging 17.2 points but had 18 in the first 20 minutes alone. He consistently beat the sophomore guard off the dribble and, when McGruder switched onto him, buried an array of outside jumpers.
"It was just a matter of getting into the right spots to help my team out," Pledger said.
The lead swelled to 40-30 early in the second half before Kansas State mounted a charge.
Henriquez started it with a putback, Rodriguez scooped in a layup and McGruder capped it off with a jumper that knotted the game 40-all.
The Wildcats pulled ahead 44-42 when Spradling was fouled by Pledger going to the basket and made both free throws. It was the fourth foul on Pledger and he took a seat on the bench with 10:55 left, but Kansas State couldn't capitalize when he was out of the game.
He checked back in at the 6:48 mark and immediately got to the foul line, making both free throws. Pledger then buried back-to-back 3s with about 5 minutes left, giving the Sooners a 55-51 advantage and hushing a sellout crowd stuffed inside Bramlage Coliseum.
It was silent again a few minutes later, when McGruder's open look from beyond the 3-point line at the buzzer hit the rim and fell harmlessly to the floor.
"It wasn't always pretty, but we did some things to hang in the ballgame," Kruger said. "I told the guys afterwards, the winning is great, but much more important, we showed a little more competitiveness, a little more fight than we have been."