“He needed one of these games to get out of the mindset he was in,” Grooms said. “He's been down on himself a little the past couple of games. Playing the way he did tonight, making the shots he made, was amazing.”
It was a rare conference road win for a program that was 1-19 on the road in Big 12 play the past three seasons, the exception being an overtime win last year at Iowa State.
After watching a 10-point lead evaporate into a 48-45 deficit when their top three scorers were in foul trouble, the Sooners got timely defensive stops, hit some big shots and were 6-for-6 at the line the final 67 seconds.
“This is very big for our confidence,” Pledger said. “It lets us know we can finish these type of games, that we can play with anybody, that we can beat anybody. It's just a matter of us executing in late-game situations.”
Even though Kruger downplayed the win at his alma mater, Grooms said players were aware of what was at stake.
“He might not say it but we knew this meant a lot to him,” Grooms said. “He's modest. But we know he really wanted this win.”
Pledger said the obvious tipoff is Kruger's occasional Freudian slips since he took the OU job in April.
“Sometimes when we're watching film he doesn't say Big 12 he says Big Eight,” Pledger said. “This is his stomping grounds. This is where he used to rock out on the court. It was great to get the win for him.”