NORMAN, Okla. — Leading the Sooners in scoring is becoming the norm recently for freshman point guard Drew Lavender.
Lavender, who was named the Big 12 Player of the Week for his performances against Purdue and Prairie View A&M a week ago, scored a career-high 23 points as No. 8 Oklahoma improved to 8-0 with their 68-46 win over Jackson State (2-5) Saturday in Norman.
Oklahoma jumped out to a 33-11 lead, but a 19-5 cut the Sooners' lead to 38-30 at halftime. But from the second half on it was the Lavender show, as the Columbus, Ohio native scored 14 of OU's 30 second half points to help the Sooners slowly pull away for their eighth win of the season.
"I did not know Lavender could shoot the ball that well, he is a good shooter," said Jackson State Head Coach Tevester Anderson. "We knew he was a penetrator but he shot the ball better than I thought he could."
Lavender, who has led the Sooners in scoring the last three games, was 7-for-12 for the field and 2-for-5 from three-point range while also dishing out a game-high five assists.
But Lavender's outstanding effort was overshadowed by the fact that the Sooners nearly blew a 22 point lead late in the first half.
"I don't think we played a very good game, but the first 10 minutes of the game was about as good as we can play," said OU Head Coach Kelvin Sampson. "Our defense started to let down and we let them have easy baskets."
Lavender and senior center Jabahri Brown also see room for improvement.
"We played alright and pretty solid tonight, but there is obviously always room to improve," said Brown, who scored six points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots. "Right now we're just trying to get over all of our injuries and get by. We need to come back healthy after the break and get better."
"Our performance tonight did not show what we expected," Lavender said. "I think Coach will be on us when we come back from break, and we need to be ready to come back out for our next game."
OU's 8-0 start marks the best in the Sampson era since the Sooners began the 1999-00 season 9-0.
"So far we're 8-0," Brown said. "Everyone thought it was going to be a rough year after we lost that first exhibition game. We picked it up and put all the pieces together. After the break we'll continue to get better and continue to put the puzzle together."
Sampson says the break — OU doesn't play until Monday, Dec. 29 against Texas Pan-American — is needed to heal up a banged up roster.
"We really need some days off to heal everyone up," Sampson said. "My biggest deal right now is getting everyone healthy. (Kevin) Bookout and (De'Angelo) Alexander have their shoulders banged up. (Lawrence) McKenzie has a stress fracture and (Jason) Detrick had a little slight concussion in the game today. We need to get everyone back so we can get into the flow with each other."
OU-Jackson State Box Score
Lavender leads OU past Jackson State
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