NORMAN — There were missed shots, 46 total free throw attempts and piles of players struggling for the ball on the floor.
There was a stop of play right after tip due to the official getting smacked in the chin.
There were dunks and alley-oops, shouting and a technical. It was an ugly, messy, physical basketball game, but in the end there was victory.
Near midcourt, the Oklahoma players raised their pointer fingers while surrounding their successful coach.
On Friday night, in front of an estimated 3,420 fans, the Sooners beat Northwestern State (La.) 69-65. The victory was No. 500 for a Lon Kruger-coached team.
“In true Oklahoma style, you hung half a thousand on them,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said in a postgame ceremony for Kruger's historical victory. “We're glad you did it right here in Oklahoma, and we hope you have many, many more in the crimson and cream.”
This victory, however, was one Kruger said was hard for his team to grasp.
“Lot of big plays there late that allowed us to sneak out with a win,” the second-year OU coach said.
The game was OU's fifth in eight days, and although Kruger credited Northwestern State for a physical game, senior Steven Pledger sat shaking his head up and down when asked if the ugly win came because of a tired team.
The Sooners finished the game 22 of 56 from the floor and 5 of 12 from 3-point range.
Oklahoma struggled in the first half. Starters Amath M'Baye and Romero Osby combined for eight missed shots. Pledger missed a three. Tyler Neal missed a three. Pledger stole the ball and nothing came from it.
There was missed opportunity after missed opportunity. And the whistle blew often for fouls. The Sooners went into the locker room at halftime down by three.
“Just not moving the ball like we really want to,” Pledger said of the struggles. “It looks real smooth in practice, but when we get in games, it hasn't come out the way we practiced.”
The second half started much of the same way.
Pledger started the half with a 3-pointer. But on OU's next attempt, two Northwestern State players lay in a tangled mess after trying for a rebound — and the Sooners still failed to score.
The game continued to have an edge, and with about 51/2 minutes left, Osby was pushed to the floor as a Northwestern State player went up for shot. Osby thought it was a charge, but the referee called the Sooner for a foul. While sitting on the flour, Osby began to shout and threw his hand in the air. He was called for a technical.
OU trailed by six points but worked its way back. With 2:05 remaining, freshman Je'lon Hornbreak hit a 3 from the left side to give the Sooners a one-point lead.
“Usually that's the way it's been going,” Pledger said about the late-game boost. “It's been every other game, me or Je'lon ... Je'lon hit this last one. It's just those shots during the game that sparks something that we're winning games off of.”
As the game's final minute began to tick off, Pledger put up an alley oop, which M'Baye finished from the right side of the hoop.
When the final seconds faded from the clock, Kruger stood just beyond the bench with his arms spread.
“It's an honor to help coach get his 500th win,” Osby said, “and a testament to how hard he's worked.”