Alexander, Sooners survive scare in season opener

Oklahoma forward De'Angelo Alexander (15) puts up a shot over Eastern Washington forward Alvin Snow during the second half of the Sooners' 69-59 win in the first of round of the Sooner Invitational Friday in Norman. Alexander led all scorers with 18 points. (AP Photo/Jerry Laizure)

NORMAN, Okla. — Life without Hollis Price almost got off to a rocky start Friday night as the 15th-ranked Sooners (1-0) needed a 18-1 run over the final seven minutes to get past Eastern Washington (0-1), 69-59, and advance to Saturday's Sooner Invitational Championship game against Oral Roberts.

Oklahoma trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half and started the game-clenching 18-1 run down 59-51 with seven minutes to go.

Sophomore De'Angelo Alexander, who scored a game-high 18 points and pulled a down a game-high seven rebounds, also dished a key assist to Kevin Bookout that gave the Sooners their first lead at 59-58 and the lead for good with 4:44 to play.

"We're young and it will take a while to jell," said Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson. "The thing I'm proud about tonight is that when we got down, we didn't panic. We got back in the game."

"It was a total team effort," said Alexander on the second half comeback win. "The team dug in and came together. We had to get stops on defense. That was a big part of the ballgame."

Alexander would later help the Sooners extend the lead to 65-58 with a four-point play when he converted a free throw after being fouled while hitting a three-point shot at the 1:38 mark.

"I knew we had to get a quick shot," said Alexander. "The shot clock was on four seconds and I just had to find an opening and get an open look. I hoped I could knock it down."

Joining Alexander in double figures was junior college transfer Jaison Williams and freshman point guard Drew Lavender. Williams hit two three-pointers and scored 10 points while Lavender chipped in 12 points and dished out four assists.

Josh Barnard led the Eagles with 17 points.

"We knew they were a good team," said Sampson on Eastern Washington, who finished second last year in the Big Sky conference. "It was a good win for us. During the month of November you have to understand the way this thing works. A lot of stuff we're going through is that our freshmen are growing up. Our team is a work in progress. At one point we had three freshman and two sophomores on the floor."

Up next for the Sooners is Oral Roberts, who also needed a late comeback to reach Saturday's title game.

"They're a lot like us," said Sampson on Oral Roberts, who advanced to the championship with a 63-60 win over South Carolina State. "They're very young. Both teams have their future ahead of them. Around here, we believe our future is now. It's an in-state rivalry and those games are always tough. You've got to be ready to play. We're going to gear up for tomorrow."

Tip-off for tomorrow's championship game is set for 8:15 p.m. at the Lloyd Noble Center.

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