It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win.
Despite a horrible shooting performance and an absent Taj Gray in the first half, Oklahoma (7-2) managed to hold on for a 61-53 win over a very stingy Southwest Missouri State (6-2) Thursday night in Norman.
"They're tough, play great defense and are well coached," said Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson. "We knew they were going to be tough after studying them on tape. You have to give them some credit for the way they played tonight. It was a good team for us to play."
The Sooners jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead and led 18-8, but the Bears, who came into the game on a six-game winning streak, responded with a 12-2 run to tie the game at 20-20. OU then scored the next six points, capped by a Jaison Williams 3-pointer at the buzzer, to take a 26-20 halftime lead desipte shooting only 21 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes.
Oklahoma would never relinquesh the lead in the second half, but failed to pull away until late a Terrell Everett 3-pointer at the 2:33 mark gave the Sooners a 10-point lead lead.
Gray, who was saddled with foul trouble for all but five minutes in the first half, sparked OU with 10 points and 13 rebounds (eight offensive) in the second half.
"He played well in the second half, but it's a 40-minute game," said Sampson on Gray. "His scholarship says 40 minutes and he needs to understand that he has to play 30-plus minutes a game. We just need to get a few of our guys going."
"I saw that I had to pick it up," said Gray, who finished with his third straight double-double. "Everybody else was playing hard and I was on the bench just watching and I told myself that I had to pick it up. I had to do whatever I had to do to help everybody else on the floor, whether it be rebounding or playing defense – just whatever needed to be done. When you sit on the bench and see everybody else having fun playing, you really want to get out there. So when I did I just played my heart out."
Sophomore point guard Drew Lavender led the Sooners with 12 points, while Everett, Lawrence McKenzie and Gray finished with 11.
Lavender also led OU with four steals. Oklahoma had a season-high 14 steals.
"There were several keys to today's game. One was Taj Gray," said SMS Head Coach Barry Hinson. "They went to him and he ends up with eight offensive rebounds. Tonight the big guys didn't wear us out. I can't say anything negative about their players' defense. We aren't going to find too many bookends like Kevin Bookout and Gray in our conference, thank goodness."
Overall, the Sooners finished at just 30 percent from the field (17-57), but they were an impressive 72 percent (21-29) from the free throw line.
Oklahoma will return to action next Tuesday against Tulsa in the All-College Classic at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.
OU-SMS Box Score