Nov. 16, 2012
ARLINGTON, Texas -- UT Arlington (1-1) battled hard but came up shy Friday night in a 63-59 loss to Oklahoma (2-0) in the Mavericks' season home opener in front of a school-record crowd of 6,421 at the College Park Center.
It was the first-ever visit to UTA by a school in the Big 12 Conference, and the Mavericks surely made the rest of the conference wary of making future treks to Arlington, where the Mavs are 56-15 since the 2007-08 campaign.
“I don’t have that sick feeling in my heart because I felt like they battled,” UT Arlington coach Scott Cross said. “For our guys to keep fighting and diving on the floor, and having an opportunity to win the game down the stretch, I think that showed a lot of the character that these guys have.”
UTA mounted a furious comeback in the second half, storming back from as many as 17 points down to knot the score (57-57) with 2:40 left on a second-chance bucket by Jordan Reves.
However, Oklahoma immediately answered on its next possession with a 3-pointer from the left side by Steven Pledger, and the Sooners held the advantage the rest of the way. The Mavericks made just 8-of-15 free throw tries in the second stanza and finished 12-for-19 from the charity stripe.
“I’m proud of our teammates because they were fighting. They were pressuring the ball for 10 minutes so that we could come back,” senior forward Karol Gruszecki said. “It was a close game. I think we can beat everyone if we play hard.”
UTA started hot, taking a 10-3 lead out of the gates in front of a raucous home crowd. The Mavericks still had a seven-point advantage, 18-11, midway through the first half before the Sooners took over.
Oklahoma went on a 22-2 run over the next six-plus minutes, taking its first lead of the game in the process. When the dust had settled, the Sooners owned a 33-20 lead, and just three minutes remained before halftime.
The Mavericks limited Oklahoma to just 35 percent shooting (20-of-56) from the floor.
Buddy Hield led the Sooners with 17 points, while Romero Osby had a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards. Kevin Butler paced the Mavs with 16 points, while Gruszecki added 15.
OU led 38-28 at intermission. Though the Mavericks were down at the break, they weren't intimidated by the Sooners or the moment.
“Every game to us is big, we treated this game like we’re going to play everybody else,” Butler said. “No team is different on our schedule to us, it was a big game because it was the first home game, but it’s no different.”
UTA is next in action Saturday, Nov. 24 at Samford. It is the first of four straight games on the road.
Oklahoma Coach Lon Kruger
"Tough battle obviously. Probably as good as an opportunity as you can possibly get. UTA did a terrific job opening the ball game and we got down a bit but we made a good run last in the first half. We relaxed a bit in the second half and UTA made a run to make it a game that could go either way. Ive watched Scott's (Cross) team for a long time and they were very well prepared. What they did tonight was no surprise. We are fortunate to get out with a win."
Buddy Hield's play:
"Buddy was fantastic in the first half. We were down eight or 10 and he scored every way you can. He's a good scorer and an emotional player that gets into it. He will give you a lot of good stretches through the year."
On UTA's pressure causing problems:
"Late in the game that was the case. We hoped to be a bit cleaner there. We didn't handle the pressure well. We are fortunate to get out with a win and move onto the next one."
About playing UTA:
"Great learning opportunity, fantastic crowd and beautiful building and terrific setting. This one started a home-and-home. We love playing quality programs where we do not have to travel a long way."
On what fueled the win:
"We picked up on our defensive intensity. But I have to give credit to the freshman play. He gave us a spark and the energy and we kind of just went from there."
On Steven Pledger's big shot:
"Steve's a senior and he's a great shooter. He caught it and I saw his head down and I knew it was going up. You expect him to hit big shots and he did at the end."
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