It’s been that kind of a year for Jeff Capel’s Oklahoma Sooners. As soon as things start looking up, there’s an equal but opposite reaction that brings his team back to reality. Oklahoma has experienced plentiful growing pains this year in large part due to the difficulties that Capel has had getting through to his star player Willie Warren, but also undoubtedly because of their numerous talented freshmen he has had to rely on. Gifted though the quartet of Tommy Mason-Griffin (13/3/5 APG), Tiny Gallon (10/8), Steven Pledger (7/2) and Andrew Fitzgerald (4/2) are, with freshmen comes spectacular ups and downs, and this crew is no different. On and off the court.
On Saturday afternoon at 3pm local time, OU tipped it off against its bitter rival Texas, running out to a twenty-point halftime lead behind the stellar play of the aforementioned guard Mason-Griffin and wing Cade Davis. The Sooners cooled off in the second half, but they were still able to utilize some great free throw defense (10-27 for UT) and some timely buckets down the stretch to hang on to win, 80-71. The freshman four stepped up in this one, combining for half of the Sooners’ points and two-thirds of their assists. It was without question the Sooners’ biggest victory of the season, and one that Sooner faithful hope would springboard OU back into the Big 12 picture and contention for a late run at the NCAA Tournament.
Cause for celebration, right? The game ended at around 5:30 pm. Give a reasonable amount of time for players to shower, dress and venture home, and you figure most everybody is gone by 7 pm. Surely some players went out to eat with their families; still others may have had a date with a girlfriend; and perhaps some just went home and chillaxed for a while. Not freshmen Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald, though. They went to the mall. But not only did they go to the mall, they were so excited by the big win and their individual performances (Fitzgerald: started and contributed 3/2/1 asst in 19 minutes; Pledger: 9/4/1 in 24 minutes off the bench) that they decided to steal some shirts from a local Dillard’s. Allegedly, of course. At 8:50 pm, the two players were watched by store security as they placed two shirts inside a blue plastic bag with the clear intent to conceal them.
Not even four hours after the biggest win of their entire lives, these two knuckleheads thought they were entitled to some free shirts. Instead of receiving a conga line of well-wishers and fans back in the dorms like campus deities, they’re busy getting written up by some rent-a-cop for petty larceny. We’re sure that they’ll learn from this mistake, but at what cost to Oklahoma? Tomorrow night’s game against Texas Tech in Norman is a must-win, and Jeff Capel now needs to make the decision on what punishment he’ll hand down to these two clowns. If he’s harsh and suspends them, he’ll be extremely shorthanded for that game; if he lets them play, then there’s an implication that stealing things from department stores is ok. We’re not sure which way he’ll turn, but we do have one question in all of this… was Royce White visiting from out of town?