The first road game of the season for the Oklahoma Sooners had all the makings of a trap game. UT-Arlington was coming off a 24-win season a year ago, and opening the season in their spectacular new basketball arena for the first time.
The Sooners nearly came away with a loss, but clutch free throws down the stretch preserved a tough 63-59 victory for Oklahoma.
"It was a great learning opportunity, a fantastic crowd, a beautiful building and a terrific setting," OU head coach Lon Kruger said. "This one started a home-and-home. We love playing quality programs where we do not have to travel a long way."
Freshman Buddy Hield had 17 points off the bench, all in the first half, to lead the Sooners in scoring. Steven Pledger had 11 and Romero Osby had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Kevin Butler had 16 points to lead the Mavericks.
UTA got off to a quick start, establishing a 12-3 lead while the Sooners struggled to do anything right on either end of the court. In fact, things got so bad, Kruger had subbed out his entire starting lineup less than five minutes into the game.
The Sooners eventually righted the ship. With UTA leading 19-11, the Sooners went on a 22-1 run, opening up a 13-point lead. Hield put the team on his back, scoring 16 of the 22 OU points during the run.
"Buddy was fantastic in the first half," Kruger said. "We were down 8 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."
The Sooners continued their run in the second half, eventually opening up a 17-point lead on an Osby free throw with 15:13 to play.
From there, momentum swung in favor of UTA. The Mavericks began whittling away at the Sooners' lead, eventually tying the score at 57 on a jumper from Jordan Reves with 2:46 to play. On the next trip down the court for OU, Pledger nailed a three-pointer to give OU a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"Steve's a senior and he's a great shooter," Osby said. "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."
The Sooners will travel to the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Florida over the Thanksgiving holidays. The first game for the Sooners will be Thanksgiving Day against the UTEP Miners. OU will have two other games in the tournament depending on various outcomes.