Sooners can't keep up with high-scoring Buffs

Michael Neal hit six first-half 3-pointers en route to a career-high 26 points, but it wasn't enough to outscore the Colorado in an 81-72 loss Wednesday night in Boulder. The Buffaloes outscored the Sooners, who led 40-35 at the half, 49-35 in the second half. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Michael Neal was hot with, but Colorado (17-5, 7-4) was on fire in their 84-75 win over No. 19 Oklahoma (16-6, 7-4) Wednesday night in Boulder, Colo.

Neal hit six of his seven 3-point attempts in the first half as the Sooners built eight points leads twice, but only led 40-35 at halftime. Neal, who finished with a career-high 26 points, finally cooled off in the second half but the Buffaloes didn't, scoring 49 points on a Sooner defense that came into the game giving up only 59.5 points per game in conference play.

"It was one of those nights," said Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson, whose Sooners fell into a third-place tie with Colorado at 7-4 in Big 12 play. "We just didn't play good enough to win. I thought for 31 minutes we played well, but Colorado made the plays down the stretch and we didn't."

The Sooners extended their halftime lead to 42-35 on a Taj Gray bucket at the 19:39 mark, but the Buffaloes would storm back to take a 48-46 lead with 15:05 left.

Oklahoma responded with an 11-4 run to take a 57-53 lead, but Colorado went on a 6-0 run to regain the lead for good at 59-57. Kevin Bookout would make one of two free throws with 8:51 left to cut the lead to 59-58, but that would be as close as the Sooners would get as the 'Buffs would erupt for 24 points in the final 8:39.

In the second half alone, Colorado shot 55.6 percent from the 3-point line and hit 16 of their 18 free throws attempts. In all the Buffs, who came into the game as the worst free throw shooting team in the Big 12, hit 19 of their 22 attempts from the line.

"I thought for 31 minutes we did good, but we just didn't make the plays," said Sampson. "We didn't finish some layups we had inside and we had some wide-open looks from the perimeter. They made some big three's. I think around the eight minute mark or nine minute mark or somewhere around there we were up four, 57-73, and we missed a couple free throws, missed two layups. We had a lot of good looks from the 3-point line, and when you're on the road up here in this place you've got to score.

"This is best Colorado team that we've played against since I've been here," Sampson continued. "They're tough to beat in their gym. Give their kids credit. They hit some tough, tough shots. And this is the first team that's just kicked our butts on the boards. We didn't rebound the ball, we made some really uncharacteristic defensive mistakes this late in the year."

The Sooners, who came into the game leading the nation in rebounding margin at +12 per game, were outrebounded 41-32. Oklahoma was also just 1-for-13 from 3-point range in the second half.

Joining Neal in double figures for Oklahoma was Terrell Everett (18), Gray (11) and junior Nate Carter (10), who saw extended minutes with starting point guard Austin Johnson unavailable while nursing an ankle sprain.

"As I've said, one of the things you've got to have this late in the year is you've got to stay healthy. We've got to look forward to Iowa State on Saturday and get these guys healthy," Sampson said.

"This one's over with. We certainly had our chance, but Colorado just made too many plays down the stretch. Now we've got to get healthy and get home and get ready for Iowa State."

The Sooners and Cyclones will tip-off at 12 p.m. Saturday at the Lloyd Noble Center.

OU-Colorado Box Score

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