Sampson encouraged despite 85-74 loss

Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout combined for 37 points, but it wasn't enough to help No. 5 Oklahoma overcome No. 4 Villanova's talented guard play. Wildcat guard Randy Foye (pictured above) torched the Sooners for a career-high 32 points. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout combined for 37 points, but it wasn't enough to help No. 5 Oklahoma overcome No. 4 Villanova's talented guard play.

The Wildcats' four-guard starting attack combined for 70 points in their 85-74 win over the Sooners in front of a frenzied 6,500 fans Saturday in Pennsylvania.

In the end, Oklahoma's perimeter players couldn't contain Villanova's guards, especially Randy Foye, who scored a career-high 32 points.

"We shot 62 percent the second half and lose by 11," said Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson. "We just have to get tougher on defense. We've got to guard the dribble, we've got know where our help's coming.

"I'm not sure if that's not the best four guards, in terms of attacking the basket. I watched that Randy (Foye) kid get 18 last year against North Carolina. It's a tough team to defend. Just because we couldn't defend them doesn't mean we're not going to defend other teams. This team was good off the dribble."

The Sooners jumped out to a 25-15 lead at the 7:36 mark of the first half, but the Wildcats' fought back with a 20-7 run to take a three point lead with 10 seconds left in the half before Nate Carter's 3-pointer at the buzzer tied the game.

In the second half, Oklahoma found themselves playing catch-up as Villanova's guards were either hitting jumpers, penetrating and scoring or getting to the free throw line.

The Wildcats, who made 19 of their 20 free throw attempts in the final 20 minutes, never trailed in the second half while building a 72-61 lead with 7:04 to go.

Oklahoma would make a final run and cut the lead to 76-71 with 2:26 to go, and then again at 79-74, but the Sooners couldn't get any closer as the Wildcats converted their free throws down the stretch.

"Getting up 10, I didn't think we played well the first half but we took care of the ball until the last two or three minutes," said Sampson. "And then the second half they got on a roll — couldn't guard them off the dribble, couldn't guard them in the zone.

"Then they go up 11 and the next thing you know we come back and cut it to five. It's a five point game with just under four minutes to go. If we can just get a stop or get them to miss a free throw, the game would've come down to the buzzer."

"So, you leave here encouraged about a lot of things. I was really pleased the way we adjusted, the way we were attacking their press. Instead of going to sideline to sideline like we were the first half, they got it under the basket and finished."

Overall, the Sooners shot 53.8 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Wildcats 29-20, but they turned the ball over 17 times to 'Nova's 10.

Gray, who scored 16 points in the second half to help keep the Sooners in the game, led the way with 22 points and nine rebounds. Bookout added 15, while Terrell Everett chipped in 11.

Villanova outscored the Sooners 23-12 from the free throw line. The Wildcats also had nine more attempts from the line than Oklahoma.

Nevertheless, Sampson was pleased with OU's play despite the competition on the road.

"Let's face it. Playing Villanova at Villanova with this backcourt and this environment, this is a win-win for us," said Sampson. "Sure, we wanted to win the game. Nobody wanted to win this game more than our coaches and players, but there's so many things we're going to take from this and help us.

"I was impressed with Villanova but I was also impressed with the way we hung in there, especially after we got down early in the second half. We've just to learn from this."

OU-Villanova Box Score

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