NORMAN— They wanted to make them all. They just didn’t realize they had.
Saturday night, Oklahoma went perfect on the free throw line, shooting an NCAA-record tying 34-for-34. That’s matched only by Samford in 1990 and UC-Irvine in 1981.
“It’s been a good free throw shooting team,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said of the Sooners this season. “That’s an extreme.”
The Sooners were sound from the floor, shooting 44.2 percent, and found opportunities to help each other, putting up 17 assists to five turnovers. Beating the Cyclones at home also will keep the Sooners alive in tournament talk. And on senior day, the seniors showed stability from the charity stripe as the Sooners beat IowaState 86-69 on Saturday.
After their Saturday performance, the Sooners are now ranked first in the Big 12 in conference play in free throw percentage, making 264 of 339 for 77.8 percent.
Senior forward Romero Osby, a 63-percent free throw shooter during his time at MississippiState, went 10-for-10 from the line. After Saturday, he is an 80.1-percent free throw shooter this season.
Making all of his charity shots is something Osby has said he doesn’t like to think about, but he does get mad at himself when he misses.
He smiled when a reporter brought up the team’s 34-for-34 performance.
“You want to make them all, but I didn’t really realize that we hadn’t missed,” he said. “I just wanted to focus.”
To the senior captain, going perfect was just one more step in his team regrouping like he told them they needed to on the plane flight back from that overtime loss at Texas.
Then there was senior Andrew Fitzgerald, a 63.8 percent free throw shooter his freshman year, who went 8-of-8.
Senior guard Sam Grooms went 4-for-4 while fellow senior guard Steven Pledger went 2-for-2.
Including his four free throws, Grooms contributed 19 points and six assists. He continued, like the few games before Texas, to drive to the hoop, make shots and play beyond what Sooner fans are accustomed to seeing from him. He only had one turnover.
Combined, the seniors drained 24 of their total 34 points at the charity stripe.
They could have used a few of those down the stretch in Austin. They went 19-of-27 from the charity stripe in a game where Saturday's perfection could have helped them to a Wednesday victory.
That 22-point blown lead at Texas was talked about quite a bit after Oklahoma’s victory Saturday.
Unlike those last seven minutes in Austin when Oklahoma couldn’t handle the press, they controlled it when they saw it from IowaState.
“I was expecting it from the top,” Grooms said of IowaState’s game plan. “If I were a coach, I would have after seeing how we played Wednesday, seeing how we responded to it.”
The contributions were high from every senior. Osby led with a team-high 22 points and nine rebounds. Pledger had 14 points and three assists and Fitzgerald had 10 points and three rebounds. Senior Casey Arent wasn’t able to contribute due to a knee injury.
The Cyclones were led by guard Tyrus McGee with 22 points, but unlike their last meeting, the Cyclones’ attack from beyond the arc with 11 3-pointers was not enough to slow Oklahoma.
IowaState coach Fred Hoiberg commented on the Sooners success at the line: "The NCAA has been around a long time. It's a pretty impressive performance."
Both coaches agreed that free throws can become contagious. When one guy makes one, everybody wants to make their own. As for Osby, he was happy with the free throws and even happier with the victory.
“It was big because it was against a really good IowaState team that had thumped us up there,” Osby said about the win. “We couldn’t rest on our laurels and we couldn’t be frustrated by Wednesday.
“It was a great opportunity that we needed to take advantage of. Thank God we did.”