Oklahoma 99, Norfolk State 36

Friday, November 10th 2006, 11:28 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) The Jeff Capel coaching era at Oklahoma got off to a fast start Friday night, in more ways than one.

The Sooners sprinted to a quick 9-0 lead, and led by Austin Johnson's five 3-pointers and career-high 18 points, they went on to rout Norfolk State 99-36 in the season opener for both basketball teams.

Freshman guard Tony Crocker added 15 points for Oklahoma, which extended its winning streak in nonconference games at Lloyd Noble Center to 47 straight games, the longest in NCAA Division I. The Sooners have won 20 of their last 22 season openers and 27 of their last 28 home openers.

"This was progress," said Capel, whose team struggled in its last outing, a 5-point exhibition win over Division II Central Missouri State. "That's what I'm proud of.

"I thought we had a great start, and a big part of that was Austin Johnson. He really came out of the gates and got us going. He hit some shots and made some good passes in transition. Our defense was pretty terrific."

Norfolk State managed only 2 baskets and 7 points in the final 13 minutes. The Spartans of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference set a school record for fewest points scored in a game. The program's previous low of 37 was set against Maryland State during the 1953-54 season.

Norfolk State hasn't won an opener since the 1998-99 season, its second season as a Division I school. The Spartans now are 0-2 all-time against Big 12 Conference teams, having also lost to Colorado in the 1997-98 season.

Oklahoma tabbed Capel, who spent the past four seasons as Virginia Commonwealth's coach, to replace Kelvin Sampson, who departed after last season for Indiana. The Sooners lost three starters off last season's team and several recruits opted to go elsewhere after Sampson's departure, leaving Oklahoma with only 12 players on its roster.

The Sooners temporarily lost two of those players this week. First, senior guard Michael Neal received a two-game suspension for breaking NCAA rules. He had participated in a summer basketball league outside a 100-mile radius from his residence.

Freshman guard Bobby Maze suffered a broken bone in his foot Wednesday, leaving the Sooners with only 10 available players, including two walk-ons, for Friday's game.

The Sooners' lack of depth mattered little and probably contributed to the 63-point margin of victory, as Capel had few substitution options. Oklahoma led 9-0 less than 2 1/2 minutes into the game, as the Spartans committed four turnovers on their first five possessions.

"We were really energetic and really excited to go at the beginning of the game," Capel said. "We need to have that same energy for every game. We may have some games when we don't make shots, but we need to have that same energy on the defensive end."

The Oklahoma lead hit double digits at the 15:44 mark, went to 20 points at the 11:04 mark and was 30 points with 4:11 left in the 1st half.

The fast start "was very important," Johnson said. "We have to try to do that every game. We want to do that every game. We need to get out and get on teams and keep putting it on them."

The Sooners slowed down some in the 2nd half, but not much. Their lead ballooned to 40 points with 14:24 left, 50 points with 7:48 left and 60 with 3:56 left. The Sooners had two chances to reach 100, but Keith Clark missed the front end of a 1 and1 free-throw opportunity and Taylor Griffin missed the second of 2 free throws with 25 seconds left.

Johnson, a sophomore point guard, scored all his points in the 1st half and finished with 9 assists, also a career-high. Longar Longar added 14 points and David Godbold scored 13 for Oklahoma.

Calvin Brown had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Norfolk State, which committed 21 turnovers and shot 24.6 percent from the field.

"I'm the head basketball coach and I have to take all of the blame," Norfolk State coach Dwight Freeman said. "We were not a very good team today. We didn't take care of the basketball, we didn't get back in transition and we didn't take good shots. This was not indicative of what our team really has."

Oklahoma's winning margin wasn't a school record; the Sooners, during their run-and-gun days under coach Billy Tubbs, won a December 1989 game over Northeastern Illinois by 95 points.

The last time the Sooners allowed fewer points than they did Friday was on December 2, 2003, when they beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 94-24.