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OU basketball: Sooners are Big 12's biggest surprise so far

BY MIKE BALDWIN Published: December 11, 2011

Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton was asked if there's a team he could recall that showed noticeable improvement under a first-year coach like Oklahoma has experienced under Lon Kruger.

“You could say Eddie Sutton his first year at Oklahoma State,” Scott Sutton said. “But they had a few thoroughbreds when you're talking about Byron Houston and Corey Williams. They made the Sweet Sixteen that year.”

The Sooners (7-1) don't have as much talent as Eddie Sutton inherited 21 years ago, when the Cowboys finished 24-8. OU, though, has been one of the Big 12's biggest surprises the first month of the season.

The schedule has fit a basketball team that needed to build some confidence. OU's lone loss was to Saint Louis, the only team on the schedule that's been ranked in the top 25.

But the Sooners have posted quality nonconference wins over Arkansas, Oral Roberts, Washington State and Santa Clara with Houston and Cincinnati yet to come.

Junior guard Steven Pledger, who played on teams that were a combined 27-36 his first two seasons, said the turnaround began the day Kruger took over in April.

“He had individual meetings with all of us and let us know what he wants from us,” Pledger said. “I appreciated that from him because it gave us confidence.”

First-year Arkansas coach Mike Anderson was at Missouri the past five years, playing against the Sooners every year.

Anderson said point guard Sam Grooms, a junior college transfer, has given the Sooners stability. Grooms joined four returning starters from last year's team.

Pledger is among the Big 12's scoring leaders, averaging 17.9 points.

Andrew Fitzgerald, averaging 11.0 points gives OU a respectable inside presence.

Romero Osby, the Mississippi State transfer who sat out last season, has provided much needed rebounding consistency.

Cameron Clark, a highly athletic sophomore, is capable of scoring 15 points any night.

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