NORMAN, Okla. — Texas A&M came to Norman on Wednesday night having never won in the Lloyd Noble Center, and that's how they left.
Taj Gray led the way with 24 points and 13 rebounds as the Sooners overcame a 16-point first half deficit for a 69-65 win over Texas A&M.
With the win, the Sooners (17-3) improved to 6-1 in Big 12 play, which ties their best start in conference play under Sampson with the 1997-98 and 2002-03 teams. OU also improved to 24-1 overall against A&M and 12-0 in Norman.
"I'm proud of our team," said OU head coach Kelvin Sampson, who tied former KU coach Roy Williams for the most regular season Big 12 wins tonight.
"They played A&M really tough. When you're playing a possession-by-possession game, you have to be tough. Our guys were really tough tonight. My hat's off to Texas A&M. I thought they really played their hearts out."
Oklahoma jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead after their first possession of the game, but then went cold (going 2 for 14 from the field) as the Aggies jumped out to a 25-9 lead at the 9:55 mark of the first half. Terrell Everett and Gray then combined for 15 points in an 18-3 run over the next five minutes and 11 seconds that cut the Aggies lead to 28-24 with 4:46 to go in the half.
The Sooners would cut the lead to 34-32 at halftime and then tie the game with two Gray free throws 10 seconds into the second half. The game would later be tied at 36-36, but the Aggies then went on a 11-4 run to take a 47-40 lead with 14:51 to go.
OU would battle back with a 10-0 run to take a 50-47 lead at the 10:38 mark, but the Aggies responded with an 8-2 run to re-take a 55-51 lead with 7:47 to go.
However, that would be the last time the Aggies would lead. The Sooners ripped off an 13-4 run, including a 3-pointer by Drew Lavender that gave OU the lead for good at the 5:36 mark, to take a 65-59 lead with 2:52 left.
A&M would fight back to cut the lead to 65-63 on a dunk by Antoine Wright, but Gray responded with a jumper in the lane to push the lead back to four with 1:10 left. The Aggies would later cut the lead to 68-65 with 26 seconds left, but Lavender hit one of two free throws with seven seconds left to push the lead to four.
"Our shot selection was excellent in the second half," said Sampson, whose team shot 60 percent from the field in the second half. "It wasn't a great offensive performance. We did a great job of getting it inside, but we would miss the free throws and lose a possession."
Part of Oklahoma's struggles tonight was due to poor shooting and free throws. The Sooners shot just 35 percent from the field in the first half and struggled mightily from the free throw line, hitting just 18 of their 30 attempts.
"Our free throw shooting was really disappointing," Sampson said. "Taj shot about 1,000 free throws this week. There's a difference in shooting them there than in the game. Free throws have not lost a game for us yet this year, but we want to make sure they don't in the future."
Joining Gray in double figures was Everett (20) and Lavender (13). Everett, who was the lone Sooner to shine from the free throw line (7-for-7), also led OU with six assists.
Back to Gray. The junior from Wichita, Kan. recorded his 13th double-double of the season, and also blocked three shots.
"I got good looks tonight because the guards were getting the ball inside to me and we were running our offense well," said Gray, who was 8-for-9 from the field. "We knew that we were in a fight and by running our offense well, we were able to come away with a win in an adverse situation."
Oklahoma returns to the Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday for a Big 12 South showdown against Texas Tech (13-5, 5-2). Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Sooners come back, then hold off A&M late for win
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