Big XII: Sooners live to play another day

Oklahoma's Drew Lavender looks for an open lane during the Sooners' 63-59 win over Nebraska Thursday night in Dallas. Lavender scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half and ignited a 22-5 run to start the second half that gave OU the lead for good. Oklahoma (19-9) will play Texas (21-6) in a quarterfinal matchup at 6 p.m. on Friday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

DALLAS — Just when it looked as if Oklahoma's NCAA Tournament hopes had been dashed on Thursday night, freshman Drew Lavender took over.

The mighty 5-foot-7 point guard scored 16 of his game-high 19 points in the second-half and the seventh-seeded Sooners managed to shake off their worst shooting half of the season en route to a 63-59 victory over No. 10 seed Nebraska in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament.

"We just attacked," said Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson. "This team has been punched in the stomach so many times this year for different things, and they just keep ringing the bell."

The Sooners (19-9), which trailed at halftime 35-22 at halftime, used a 19-5 second-half run to go ahead 41-40 on Larry Turner's follow-up shot with 12:14 left.

From that point on, Oklahoma never trailed again and actually led by as many as 11 points.

Senior Jason Detrick scored 16 points for the Sooners, who are seeking their fourth straight Big 12 Tournament crown, while sophomore D'Angelo Alexander ripped down a game-high nine rebounds to go with seven points.

Yet early on, the Sooners struggled offensively, connecting on just 25 percent of their shots (8-of-32) in the game's first 20 minutes.

Said Sampson: "I thought the first half, our freshmen, it's the first time they've ever played in a Big 12 Tournament game in a pro arena, I thought the bright lights and the moment, you could tell we weren't as aggressive as we needed to be."

But thanks to Lavender and the improved play of Turner, who finished the game with four points, five rebounds and three blocks in 20 minutes, the Sooners battled back.

In fact, during Oklahoma's decisive second-half run, much of the defensive effort keyed off Turner.

"I knew that I could take advantage of my size since I was the tallest player on the floor," said Turner. "I just had to make sure that I played smart. I was able to make it difficult for their guards to go inside and make lay-ups because of my height."

Regardless, Nebraska coach Barry Collier was impressed with the second-half effort by the Sooners, especially that of Detrick, Lavender and Turner.

"I think a lot of their run was triggered by defense. They put more and more pressure on us to score and try to stay ahead, even if we were trading baskets," said Collier. "(Jason) Detrick had a great half and really overall had a very good game and that really created problems for us. (Drew) Lavender was much more aggressive and successful in scoring the ball. Turner was a real factor blocking shots and altering shots. They were clearly more aggressive (in the second half) even when they played zone and they played quite a bit of zone in the second half. We didn't take advantage of the opportunity to get into the middle (of the zone) as much as we should've."

Corey Simms led Nebraska with 14 points and John Turek had 10 points for Nebraska (16-12), which lost in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament for the fifth straight year, but could be headed to the NIT.

Next up for the Sooners is the Big 12 quarterfinals, where No. 2 seed and eleventh-ranked Texas, which crushed Oklahoma 66-37 in Austin just over a month ago, is waiting.

"There's a lot of years where we were just better than Texas," said Sampson. "And now, they're better than us right now. That's economics, it goes up, it goes down and back up again."

Tip-off for Friday's quarterfinal matchup with Texas is scheduled for 6 p.m.

OU-Nebraska Box Score:
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