Longar Longar returned to the lineup for Oklahoma against Iowa State on Wednesday, giving a boost to a battered Sooner frontcourt. But the guards stole the show and helped the Sooners end a three-game losing skid with a 76-64 win over the Cyclones in front of 5,825 at Lloyd Noble Center.
But what got the LNC crowd excited the most was the emergence of freshman Cade Davis, who buried all three of his 3-point attempts and scored a career-high 11 points.
"It was a big turnaround, going from hitting nothing the past few games to hitting all my shots," Davis said. "It felt good to help my team out that way."
The Cyclones chose to double-team forward Blake Griffin, deciding to put their fate in the Sooner guards. It's not an uncommon practice these days as the backcourt has struggled during the three-game losing streak.
"I told our guards they should take it personal how teams are playing them," OU coach Jeff Capel said.
They took it personal to the tune of seven 3-pointers as Crocker and Johnson each knocked down a pair.
Oklahoma shot 41.2 percent (7-of-17) from beyond the arc and 41.5 percent (22-of-53) overall.
"We wanted to try and make it tough on their interior guys," Iowa State head coach Greg McDermott said. "When you do that, you are going to give up some things on the perimeter. To their credit, Tony Crocker, Austin Johnson and Cade Davis really made us pay.
"We tried to take something away and give them something and that was something they were doing particularly well. Tonight they beat us with it."
Capel said the difference on offense Wednesday wasn't better execution. It was something much more simple.
"Look, everything is better when you can make shots," he said. "This isn't a difficult game; it isn't rocket science. It is about putting the ball in the basket and stopping the other team from putting it in. Tonight we did a pretty good job at both of them."
Despite the double teams, Griffin scored 13 points and had eight boards. Longar, who has missed the last two games with a broken bone in his lower right leg, added six points and five boards.
However, they were held to a combined 6-of-20 from the field.
This time around, however, the backcourt stepped up.
Crocker was determined from the start. He made a pair of treys during a 14-0 first-half run that gave OU a 22-9 lead. He was more aggressive with the ball (10-of-10 from the foul line) and was after every rebound.
"The coaches told me they needed me to be more aggressive with the ball, getting rebounds and scrapping for loose balls," he said. "That's what I tried to do."
The most emphatic play came from Crocker driving that point home. He pulled down an offensive rebound, drop stepped and slammed it on ISU's Rahshon Clark and Jiri Hubalek with 11:40 to play, giving OU a 54-43 lead.
"I've never seen him doing anything even remotely close to that," Capel said.
Iowa State made a brief comeback, however, and cut Oklahoma's lead to 56-50 on a Craig Brackins jumper with 9:29 to play.
Davis, however, answered with a 3-pointer at 8:20 and Taylor Griffin scored off a turnover 15 seconds later to push Oklahoma's lead back to 11.
"I told the guys the other day in practice that everyone has a clean slate. We have two days of practice, I'll tell you who's starting on game day," Capel said.
Neysmith started both halves, played eight minutes, scored four points and grabbed a pair of rebounds.
"Tony gave us a huge lift both halves," Capel said.
Hubalek led the Cyclones with 23 points. Wesley Johnson added 10.
Iowa State did make 8 3-pointers, but was held to 39.7 percent shooting overall.
The Sooners travel to Texas Tech on Saturday.
- The Sooners shot better than normal from the charity stripe. They were 25-of-29 (86.2 percent).
- Iowa State attempted only 11 free throws, but made 11. Big 12 opponents are 143-of-170 (84.1 percent) at the charity stripe at LNC this season.
- Neysmith had not played more than a minute in a Big 12 game before tonight.
- All of Austin Johnson's points came in the first half. The 13 points were more than he'd scored in the three previous games (all OU losses) combined.