McKenzie saves the day for Sooners in Lincoln

Freshman guard Lawrence McKenzie's three-point shooting lifts Oklahoma past Nebraska, 52-50, Sunday in Lincoln. McKenzie led all scorers with 18 points. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Lawrence McKenzie hit five three-pointers Sunday against Nebraska, but none was bigger than his last one in Oklahoma's 52-50 win.

After blowing a 36-21 halftime edge and trailing 45-44 after going through ten minute scoring drought, Oklahoma's freshman guard sank one free throw to tie the game and nailed a crucial three-pointer on the next possession to give the Sooners the lead for good with 2:15 to go.

"I don't think we'd be Oklahoma if we didn't have a drought and couldn't score," said Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson, whose Sooners fought off a 15-0 Nebraska run during their scoring drought. "They were pushing us out, and I told our kids not to worry about making a mistake. I told them in the huddle that somebody has got to step up and make a shot. We opened the floor up for McKenzie, and he just hit them with a dagger."

Jason Detrick's jumper put the Sooners up 50-45 with one minute to go, but Nebraska guard Marcus Neal's three-pointer cut the lead to 50-48 with 45 seconds to go put and the pressure back on McKenzie and the Sooners.

And on the next possession, the Sooners put the ball back into McKenzie's hands, and he responded with a perfect drive and dish to Jabahri Brown, who hit a baseline jumper with 12 seconds left to seal the win.

"The last three shots were really daggers," said Sampson. "Tells you something about our team when we experienced adversity, we stepped up and made plays when we had to. I thought our young kids grew up today.
"I thought we showed our toughness and character. Everything this program has been built on for the last nine years came out in that last two minutes. This Nebraska team is 10-1 on this court."

McKenzie led all scorers with 18 points and hit five of his eight three-point attempts. Brown finished with 15.

McKenize ended up saving the day for the Sooners, but he was also responsible for Oklahoma building a 36-21 halftime lead.

The Minneapolis native hit four of his five three-pointers and scored 14 of his 18 in the first half. In all, the Sooners shot 50 percent (7-for-14) from three-point range in the first half.

"Lawrence has been due for a game like this," said Samspon on McKenzie, who also had 10 rebounds. "Our fans are going to love watching that kid for four years. Good to see his mother and father here, too. We may have to get them a plane ticket and fly them to Austin, Texas next Sunday."

The second half, however, was a different story as the Sooners shot only 28 percent from the field while only scoring 16 points in the final 20 minutes. Oklahoma finished the game shooting 39 percent (20-of-52) from the field.

But in the end, the only thing that matters is the win column. With the win the Sooners improve to 3-3 in Big 12 play and 13-4 overall.

"We started the conference off 0-3, and now are 3-3 and have the opportunity to go home and go to 4-3," said Sampson. "That was our goal after the Texas Tech game. After we lost that game, we had to make some decisions, but I never questioned this team's toughness.

"We played four freshmen today and they all got good minutes. And the more minutes and experience that they can get, especially on the road like this, will really be beneficial for us come March."

Up next for the Sooners is a key home game this Wednesday against Iowa State (4-2, 13-4) in Norman. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Lloyd Noble Center.

OU-Nebraska Box Score

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