OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — No Hollis Price? No Kevin Bookout? No problem.
With their starting power forward and team leader on the bench for most of the game, top-seeded Oklahoma looked to a freshman and sophomore to dispatch of South Carolina State, 71-54, in NCAA first round action Thursday at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.
Freshman De'Angelo Alexander scored 16 points and sophomore backup point guard Blake Johnston scored a career-high 15 points as the Sooners overcame an early deficit and advanced to Saturday's East Region second round game against eight-seeded California. The Bears advanced to Saturday's second round with a 76-74 overtime win over North Carolina State.
"I think a great positive for us today was who are three leading scorers were," said Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson. "If you would have told me before I left the hotel that De'Angelo Alexander would be our leading scorer, Blake Johnston would be second and Jabahri Brown third, I would have assumed that Hollis and Kevin wouldn't have played. And that's what happened."
"I think that's good for those kids' confidence," Sampson continued. "That's a good thing that those kids led us in scoring today because they needed that to happen. Blake and De'Angelo really stepped up for our team today."
Price, who partially tore his groin during last Sunday's Big 12 Tournament Championship game against Missouri, played only 11 minutes and scored only three points, while starting forward Kevin Bookout, who was suffering from the flu, went scoreless in just nine minutes of play.
"Once we got Hollis out of the game I thought it helped us," said Sampson. "Hollis just couldn't go laterally. And once we got Kevin out of the game I thought that helped us too. Those guys just couldn't go. But Blake, I thought, was a sparkplug for us today."
The Sooners, who led 35-16 at halftime despite a woeful start, led by as many as 28 points in the second half. Oklahoma missed their first eight shots and trailed 7-3 early, but used a 16-0 run, which included five points from Johnston, toward the end of the first half to break the game open.
In addition to Johnston's play off the bench, junior center Jabahri Brown came off the bench to add 12 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Dustin Braddick led the Bulldogs with 15 points.
Tip-off for Saturday's OU-California game is tentativly set for 4:25 p.m. at the Ford Center.
OU-South Carolina State Box Score
NCAA: Alexander leads Sooners in first round win
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