Oklahoma 61, SW Missouri St. 53

Thursday, December 23rd 2004, 11:21 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson pointed out that Taj Gray was on a full scholarship even though he essentially played only one half Thursday night against Southwest Missouri State.

But without the one solid half Gray was able to play, the Sooners coach wouldn't have been in a joking mood.

Gray scored 11 points and grabbed all 13 of his rebounds in the second half as Oklahoma beat Southwest Missouri State 61-53.

Gray's third straight double-double included eight offensive rebounds, and he parlayed three of those into crucial putback baskets as Oklahoma (7-2) maintained its lead in a game that was close throughout.

``It's nice to know that on nights when you don't shoot well and you don't have a very high percentage, you can still stay in the game with offensive rebounds,'' said Sampson, whose team shot 30 percent. ``I thought Taj in the second half, he was a man.''

Hampered by foul trouble, Gray played only 5 minutes in the first half and scored two points without any rebounds. He picked up his first foul just 9 seconds into the game.

``I think I was kind of too wound up,'' Gray said. ``I think I need to relax more. ... When I sat down, I got a chance to calm down.''

Gray scored eight points _ including six off of offensive rebounds _ as the Sooners built on a 29-26 lead. Gray's third putback made it 42-34 midway through the second half.

``What Taj has to understand is that everybody on our team is a role player _ everybody,'' Sampson said. ``Taj's role is to dominate the inside.''

Drew Lavender had 12 points to lead the Sooners, Terrell Everett added 11 and Lawrence McKenzie scored 10.

Oklahoma, which led 26-20 at halftime, never trailed but was also unable to pull away. The Sooners' lead was never more than eight points but never less than three points for the first 17 1/2 minutes after halftime.

Everett drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing with 2 1/2 minutes to play that gave Oklahoma a 55-45 lead _ its largest of the night.

Tyler Chaney scored 17 points to lead Southwest Missouri State (6-2), which had its six-game winning streak snapped.

The Sooners held Tamarr Maclin, the Bears' leading scorer, to four points _ less than half his average of 11.7. Maclin had to sit out the final 8 minutes of the first half while trainers attended to a cut over his right eye.

``We came down here to win,'' Southwest Missouri State coach Barry Hinson said. ``We're not happy with a loss.''

In the first half, Oklahoma went eight minutes without a field goal and five minutes without scoring, but maintained a 10-8 lead as the Bears were equally cold from the field. Oklahoma hit only two of its first 15 shots and Southwest Missouri State was 2-for-10 to start the game.

McKenzie was the first to find his range, hitting two 3-pointers in a quick 8-0 run that extended the Sooners' lead to 18-8 with 6 1/2 minutes to play before halftime.

Southwest Missouri State responded with a 12-2 run _ including seven points from Chaney _ to tie the game at 20 with 3 minutes left in the first half.

Jaison Williams hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Oklahoma a 26-20 lead at the half.

The Bears committed 22 turnovers and had only nine assists.

``We had the ability to handle pressure and we didn't do it well,'' Hinson said. ``We needed better offensive execution and couldn't get it done.''