Norman, Okla. Oklahoma wrapped up what has to be considered a successful non-conference schedule. And Saturday, the Sooners might have just got some of their confidence back, too.
Two days after coming undone in the final minutes at Cincinnati, OU hung on and shook off Northwestern State, 83-63, using a 9-0 run in the second half to distance themselves from the Demons.
Oklahoma got 18 points apiece from Steven Pledger and Romero Osby.
OU (10-2) led by 11 at halftime and by as much as 20 overall, never trailing for the entire duration of the game. The Demons (7-7) got within two points in the second half before a 9-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Pledger with 10:37 remaining, put the Sooners ahead 57-46.
The win Saturday comes just two days after the Sooners fell apart in the final moments at Cincinnati, relinquishing a 12-point lead with 6 minutes to play while getting outscored 19-6 during that span. OU had 17 turnovers against the Bearcats.
"The last non-conference game is about doing what we need to get better," OU coach Lon Kruger said. "It was a disappointing loss on Thursday. Up 12, you want to finish those out. Not finishing (the game) was a lesson we'll learn from. We've accomplished quite a bit, but the players know it's going to get tougher."
Against the Demons, OU shot the ball well, finishing at 56 percent, but its 18 turnovers helped keep Northwestern State in the game until the latter part of the second half. The Demons were led by James Humblin's 18 points.
Pledger, who leads all Big 12 Conference guards with a 55 percent shooting clip, connected on 3 of 5 from 3-point range and was 6 for 11 shooting. Andrew Fitzgerald had 14 points and Sam Grooms added 11 for the Sooners.
Saturday marked the end of the non-conference schedule and also marks the beginning of a tough stretch for the Sooners. OU opens Big 12 Conference play at undefeated and No. 8-ranked Missouri Wednesday, then comes home to face No. 17 Kansas on Jan. 7. The Sooners were projected to finish last in the Big 12 by league coaches, but have been a pleasant surprise thus far. OU's other loss came against St. Louis in the finals of the 76 Classic.
"It's going to be really tough and I know our team is ready for that," Pledger said. "We've put in the work."
Against Northwestern State, OU led 40-29 at halftime and shot 57 percent from the field overall. Northwestern State had just nine field goals and shot only 30 percent in the first half.
The Demons shot just 37 percent for the game and 25 percent from 3-point range. Shamir Davis had 13 points and Gary Roberson added 11 for Northwestern State.
After Northwestern State got to within 48-46 with 12:30 left, the Demons missed their next seven shots from the field. By the time the Demons made a field goal, the Sooners had stretched the lead to 16 points.
"Defensively we got some stops and then we converted on the other end," Kruger said. "We tightened it up pretty good."
The Sooners have won six of their past seven games.