NORMAN — Oklahoma's lead began to dwindle, but Cam Clark and his teammates decided to change that.
This was how the Sooners wanted to play, not just one player making baskets but “sharing” the glory.
That's the word Amath M'Baye used after Oklahoma defeated Ohio, a Sweet 16 team from last season, 74-63 at home in the Sooners' first game since a crushing loss to Stephen F. Austin 11 days earlier.
“Every time someone was open, we had the ball in his hands,” M'Baye said. “It's beautiful to just see it transfer to a game. We had these times where we would do really good in practice and it wouldn't be able to transfer to the game.
“We played exactly the way we wanted to play and exactly the way we practiced.”
The Sooners (8-3) started the game on defense the way Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger asked them to play in the first 11 games — physically and aggressively.
While OU shot poorly from the field, going 10 of 33 in the first half, the Sooners never fell far behind. Ohio's biggest lead was by five points.
Instead of freshman Buddy Hield providing a spark to Oklahoma from the bench, he provided one from the start of the game, earning his first career start. He contributed one assist and two steals in the first half and was constantly in D.J. Cooper's face. Cooper still was able to score eight first-half points and finished with 14 points to lead the Bobcats (8-5).
The first half, though, was carried by Oklahoma's most consistent player this season — Romero Osby. He ended the first half with a game-high 12 points.
With the game tied at 29 to open the second half, Osby gave Oklahoma two more points off free throws, and his teammates took it from there.
M'Baye followed by giving Oklahoma its first fast-break points. Hield hit the Sooners' first three of the game. Sam Grooms scored his first points. Steven Pledger drained a couple threes, and with just under seven minutes remaining, Clark drained a lot of buckets.
Ohio had started to slowly creep back into the game, eventually cutting Oklahoma's lead to only four points.
Then Hield grabbed a steal. The ball made its way to Isaiah Cousins, who put the ball up for Clark to finish with a dunk.
On the next play, Hield grabbed the defensive rebound and passed it down low to Clark, who slammed it down for another dunk. Clark finished with eight points.
“That's what Cam does,” M'Baye said. “He gets the crowd going, the bench going.”
The players said it was the first victory where they really felt like they played as a unit. Pledger led OU in scoring with 18 points, while M'Baye and Osby each added 16.
“It makes you feel good to know that your team, everybody is coming into his own and becoming more confident,” Osby said. “I think it was a team effort all week in practice. We really shared the ball better, talked on defense better and went after rebounds together better.
“That will be huge when we get to the Big 12 because it is a team game, and when we are all playing well and working for each other, it's always a good feeling.”