OU extend's win streak to eight with win over A&M

Oklahoma's Kevin Bookout shoots around Texas A&M's Joseph Jones during the Sooners' 70-54 win over Texas A&M in College Station. Drew Lavender led the Sooners with 23 points. With the win OU improves to 3-0 in Big 12 play and 14-2 overall. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

It's not often that a team can win on the road in the Big 12 when their leading scorer gets shut out, but that's what happened Tuesday night in College Station.

Drew Lavender scored 23 points and Lawrence McKenzie hit three clutch 3-point shots in the second half as the 18th-ranked Sooners overcame a scoreless effort by Taj Gray and continued their dominance over Texas A&M with a 70-54 win at Reed Arena.

"We're very fortunate and appreciative to get out of here with a win," said OU head coach Kelvin Sampson, who improved to 8-1 against the Aggies in College Station and 18-1 overall. "It was a good win for us. That's a good team we beat.

Gray, who entered the game averaging 15.4 points per game, picked up his second foul just over six minutes into the game and was sent to the bench, but several Sooners stepped up in his absence.

Terrell Everett was hot early for the Sooners scoring 10 points as OU jumped out to a 20-13 lead at the 9:40 mark, but A&M went on an 11-2 run to take a 24-22 lead with 5:22 to go in the half. Oklahoma quickly regained the lead on a 3-pointer by McKenzie, but the teams went into the locker room at halftime tied at 31-31.

The Sooners came out firing in the first four minutes of the second half, getting a pair of 3-pointers by Lavender and Jaison Williams to spark a 14-2 run that pushed the lead to 45-33 with 15:57 to go.

The scrappy Aggies fought back with a 12-4 run over the next six minutes to cut the lead to 49-45. Kevin Bookout answered the first run with a bucket on OU's next possession and one free throw 40 seconds later to push the lead back to seven with 8:47 to go.

A&M quickly cut the lead to four on an Antoine Wright 3-pointer, but McKenzie answered with 3-pointer to push the lead back to seven. Wright responded with another 3-pointer to cut the lead to 55-51 at the 6:01 mark, but Bookout buried a pair of free throw's to stretch the lead to six.

A&M reserve guard Bobby Leach then followed a missed 3-point attempt by Wright to cut the lead back to four with 5:20 to go, but that's when McKezine put the Aggies away for good hitting three's on back-to-back possessions to give OU a 63-53 with 4:04 to go.

McKenzie's three's ignited a 13-2 run over the last 4:50 to seal the win.

"That's Lawrence's game," said Sampson on McKenzie's clutch shooting. "I've seen him do it enough to know he has no fear."

Back to Lavender, the 5-foot-6 guard who lit up the Aggies for 31 points last year in College Station, was sensnational again on Tuesday scoring a season-high 23 points, including the last seven points of the game for the Sooners.

"I can't say enough about the improvement that Drew's made," Sampson said. "When he broke his finger I didn't think he'd react to his injury well, but he's learned how to deal with that.

"When teams take away our inside you can't throw the ball inside every time. I'd like to throw the ball in every possession, but at some point your guards have to make good decisions. I thought Drew scored the ball good tonight and he took good shots."

As for Gray, his scoreless effort wasn't a disappointment in Sampson's eyes.

"I thought he played great," said Sampson on Gray, who finished with eight rebounds and four blocks in 18 minutes of action. "Sometimes people have a terrible misunderstanding of the game of basketball in that they base people's performance off the stat sheet.

"I thought Taj was good tonight. He didn't score, but when he got those fouls he still helped his team out. He just didn't score the ball, but when you've got a good team you don't depend on one person."

Joining Lavender in double figures was Everett, McKenzie and Bookout with 12 points each. Bookout also grabbed seven rebounds and played the entire 40 minutes.

"Other than Longar Longar, I don't know that anybody that played tonight didn't contribute to this win," Sampson said. "Kevin is just a warrior. He's a tough, tough, tough kid. Lawrence McKenzie got going with his 3-point shooting and Terrell Everett was solid. This is a good team."

Sampson also pointed to the play of senior Johnnie Gilbert, who made two great defensive plays on back-to-back possessions of the second half to help OU pull away.

"I think a testament to how much this team has improved is Taj Gray doesn't score tonight, but Johnnie Gilbert goes in there and plays unbelievable halfcourt defense," said Sampson. "He really helped his teammates in ever facet. Everything that we preach, Johnnie did it. I'm not sure that he wasn't our most valuable player defensively."

In all, Oklahoma shot 53 percent (25-47) from the field against an A&M team that led the nation in field goal percentage defense coming into the game. The Sooners also hit over 50 percent (9-17) of their 3-point shots, including 7-of-10 from behind the arc in the second half.

With the win, the Sooners (14-2) extend their winning streak to eight games and and move into a first-place tie with Kansas at 3-0 in Big 12 play. A&M falls to 1-3 in conference action and 12-3 overall.

"Texas A&M's a young team, we're a young team," Sampson said. "It was just two teams battling through a tough season that they just keep getting better. A&M's going to win a lot of games here in this gym. We're looking forward to seeing a great Sooner crowd on Saturday."

Next up for the Sooners is the first of two Red River Shootout battles with No. 11 Texas Saturday at the Lloyd Noble Center. Tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m.

OU-A&M Box Score

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