Sooners find nothing simple in the Big Easy

Bulldogs spoils Oklahoma duo's trip to hometown with a 54-45 win over the Sooners Saturday in New Orleans

I don't know exactly where or exactly when, but somewhere between Lake Pontchartrain and the French Quarter the real Oklahoma Sooners got lost. I can't tell you who those guys running around in crimson were today, but I know they weren't the fifth-ranked team in the country.

Still, you've got to be at least on your "B" game when playing Mississippi State in the big bowl of crawfish etouffee that is New Orleans, Louisiana. The Sooners didn't sniff their "D" game on this afternoon, and it showed throughout this 54-45 setback to the Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl Classic.

Pick either of the following cliches, couldn't hit water from the boat or couldn't hit sand in the desert, both would do the trick in accurately describing Oklahoma's shooting performance today.

For the game, OU shot a frigid 31 percent (17-of-54) from the floor and chimed in with an equally chilly 29 percent (7-of-24) from behind the three-point line. That's not so much a cold, north breeze as it is a roaring mass of arctic air billowing over the Rockies.

"They're probably one of the best defensive teams we've ever played against," said Hollis Price, who came through with a decent performance for his hometown crowd. He finished with 17 points. A pair of his three-pointers in the second half gave OU its largest lead of the game at 36-30.

OU's game slid off into the Gulf of Mexico after that. Mississippi State went on an 18-8 run over the next ten-plus minutes to lead 48-38 and they never looked back.

As far as individual Bulldog performances go, well, Mario Austin is a beast. I mean that literally, as even the most fundamental of skills, such as dribbling, would cause Austin to let loose roars, shouts and growls that can only be described as a grizzly in heat.

Still, the Alabama native took advantage of an Oklahoma inside game that was still taking snapshots at the House of the Rising Sun to lead all scorers with 18.

"I ran the court, which made their big men run and tired them out. That helped me," Austin said. "Down the stretch, I came up with some big baskets for our team."

OU coach Kelvin Sampson was quick with the praise of Mario Austin, but he also realized that certain aspects of the game pointed to a few Sooner strengths that could have led to a different outcome.

"They have a superstar in Austin, and their team knows who their meal ticket is," Sampson said. "If you had told me before the game that we'd out-rebound Mississippi State (38-to-36) and hold Austin to 18, I would have thought we'd win."

As it turns out, the Sooners gave it a run in the final minutes. Following a Kevin Bookout bucket to make it 48-40, Hollis Price dropped in five quick points to make it 48-45.

It didn't faze the Bulldogs too much as they calmly took the ball back downcourt and found Austin again for a three-point play. The score was now 51-45, and Oklahoma would not score again.

Oklahoma will be in action again on Dec. 30 in Norman to take on UNC-Asheville. I'm betting the performance will be a little bit better on Monday than it was today.

On a sad personal note, I turned off the OU game following its conclusion and changed over to the Colorado/Charlotte game. To add insult to injury, I realized that Doug Gottlieb was doing the color commentary of the ESPN broadcast. I decided it was then high-time to drown my Sooner-related sorrows at Taco Bueno. Woe is me.

BMart's Player of the Game
Mario Austin: 18 Points and 8 Rebounds.

BMart's Play of the Game
Even though this game was about as easy to sit through as a root canal, the behind the back save and pass by De'Angelo Alexander to Hollis Price for an easy lay-up was as pretty a play as you'll ever see.

OU-Miss. State Box Score

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