DALLAS, Texas - It wasn't pretty, but the Oklahoma (29-4) basketball team used solid defense and accuracy at the free throw line to secure a 78-65 victory over Xavier (26-6).
The win advances the Sooners to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1999 and marked Kelvin Sampson's fifth tournament win as the head coach at Oklahoma.
"We didn't get beat by a good team. We got beat by a great team," said Xavier Head Coach Thad Matta. "They were clicking on all cylinders at all the right times, right out of the gate and right at the end. We couldn't get over the hump."
"All the things I feared that OU would do happened, (Aaron) McGhee getting going early and (Ebi) Ere making shots. They are a good team and we didn't want it to end, but I guess all things come to an end."
It was apparent from the opening tip that senior Aaron McGhee was the go-to-guy. McGhee scored nine points in the first five minutes to help send the Sooners on a quick 10-3 run.
The Musketeers were scrappy competitors and the hot shooting by Romain Sato kept Xavier in the game in the first half. Sato finished the evening with 28 points and eight rebounds.
The Sooners bounced to a 30-20 lead before Xavier used a 10-2 run to close within two. Oklahoma was able to score a couple of late baskets to secure a 40-36 halftime advantage.
In the second half, Xavier wasted no time on the offensive end and eventually tied the game at 49-49.
The Sooners, however, were too determined to make travel plans to San Jose. With the assistance of a mixture of three baskets by McGhee and a Quannas White 3-pointer, Oklahoma was able to utilize a 9-0 run to give the Sooners a comfortable 58-49 advantage.
"I wasn't surprised Xavier came back," said Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson. "They are persistent. Hawaii is really good, and they held Hawaii to 18 second-half points."
"They were as tough and as physical as we've seen this year."
"That took the wind out of us," said Matta on OU's second half run. "With five minutes to go, the one thing they didn't do was stop defending. I thought we were where we wanted to be, but the run just took it out of us."
Several gritty defensive stands helped to extend that run to 15-4 for an 11-point lead. Oklahoma junior Ebi Ere was the catalyst during that span with several big baskets when the Musketeers were fighting to close the gap. Ere ended the game with 20 points and seven rebounds.
Xavier was unable to make another threat and would eventually surrender for a 78-65 defeat.
Oklahoma's McGhee finished the contest with 25 points (8-15 FG) and five rebounds. Juniors Hollis Price and Quannas White chipped in 12 and nine points, respectively.
"I think that he is a good player and OU executed their game," said Xavier's All-American center David West. "I felt like I defended him well, but it is hard to defend a guy who starts off the game making five or six field goals in the first three minutes of the game."
West contributed 18 points and eight rebounds in the loss.
Oklahoma will face Pac-10 force Arizona in the sweet 16 for the right to advance to the Elite Eight next Thursday in San Jose.
"Growing up I used to watch teams celebrating going to the Sweet 16 and now we are going," said senior forward Daryan Selvy. "We've accomplished half our goal. Our focus in each game is to go out, have fun and play good defense."
"We dreamed about getting this far, now we just have three more games to win. We played a pretty good team out there today, but when things got tough, we stuck together."
Frey 1-1 0-1 2, Young 0-1 2-2 2, West 7-14 3-6 18, Chalmers 1-12 4-4 6, Sato 9-17 5-8 28, Williams 1-2 0-0 3, Coleman 1-2 0-0 2, A.Brown 1-2 1-2 4, Jackson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-52 15-23 65.
Ere 7-14 4-4 20, McGhee 8-16 8-9 25, J.Brown 2-3 0-0 4, White 2-5 4-5 9, Price 4-10 4-4 12, Detrick 0-3 3-4 3, Selvy 2-5 1-2 5. Totals 25-56 24-28 78.
Halftime score-Oklahoma 40, Xavier 36. 3-Point Goals-Xavier 8-19 (Sato 5-10, A.Brown 1-1, Williams 1-1, West 1-3, Coleman 0-1, Chalmers 0-3), Oklahoma 4-12 (Ere 2-5, White 1-1, McGhee 1-3, Price 0-1, Detrick 0-2). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Xavier 38 (Sato, West 8), Oklahoma 31 (Selvy 9). Assists-Xavier 11 (Sato, West 3), Oklahoma 12 (White 6). Total fouls-Xavier 19, Oklahoma 19. A-19,951
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