NORMAN — Much like a sheep trailer tire on a bumpy Stillwater back road, this game was a blowout. Oklahoma, fueled by a 24-8 run to end the first half, defeated Oklahoma State 64-48, the largest Sooner margin of victory over the Cowboys since 1997.
Leading 34-22 at the half, Oklahoma came out blazing in the second half, ballooning the lead up past 20. With the score at 47-26, the Cowboys flew down-court on a fast break. Melvin Sanders fired a pass across the paint that sailed over everyone's head and Eddie Sutton came unglued. Under the impression that the ball had been tipped by Hollis Price, Sutton went ape. He stormed onto the court to confront an official and had to be restrained by the rest of his coaching staff. His tirade resulted in a technical foul, and Price drained both free throws that pushed the Oklahoma lead to 49-26, the largest of the game, with 13:04 to play.
Victor Williams, the thorn in every Sooner's side during his career in Stillwater, took it upon himself to bring the Cowboys back into the game. For a while, it appeared that he might do just that. Over the next 150 seconds, Williams scored six quick points and all of a sudden OSU had pulled off a 10-0 run and trailed only 49-36. The momentum stopped there, as OSU went scoreless for three minutes. By the time Williams sank a free throw with 7:28 left, OU was up 55-36, and the men from Stillwater in their vomit and Cheese Whiz uniforms would never threaten again.
"We knew those guys would make a run," Price said. "We were up 23 points and it's hard to come back against a team as good as we are. Victor Williams did a great job of playing with a lot of emotion and pushing the ball. His team fed off him. But we found a way to keep our lead."
OU received solid outputs from its two senior scorers: Price and Ebi Ere. Price, true to his season form, tallied 22 points, going 5-of-14 from the field and 8-of-8 from the charity stripe. Ere showed confidence in his jumper throughout the night, as he scored 11 points. None of his buckets were as big as the three-pointer he hit to give OU a 52-36 lead when it looked like OSU might make a run at the upset.
"(Ere) shot the ball with confidence," said OU coach Kelvin Sampson. "He did knock down his open threes. He did a lot of good things tonight. With a kid like that, you just keep encouraging him."
Earlier this year, OSU coach Eddie Sutton said he planned to be coaching long enough to make a run at 800 career victories. Kevin Bookout might send Sutton packing for the Payne County Retirement Village a little earlier than expected.
Bookout turned in another solid performance against the Aggies, scoring 15 points and grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds. For an Oklahoma team that has been short on Oklahoma-grown talent of late, Bookout will most likely be the man who wants to beat OSU the most. In his young career he is averaging 14.5 points and 11.5 rebounds against the Cowboys. Judging by these stats, the Stroud freshman could be a source of great wailing and gnashing of teeth by the orange faithful for the next three years.
"This week in practice we worked on getting the ball inside and out and creating things for our guards," Bookout said. "When our guards are on, they are on, and they did a great job of getting me the ball.
What makes Bookout so tough is his quickness. When the ball hits his hands it is immediately up towards the rim, and that can mean big trouble for the opposing defense.
"You have to give it up to Bookout," said OSU forward Ivan McFarlin. "He is a great player and he has developed. He has a nice shot. He never brings the ball down and has nice touch off the glass. It's a very hard shot to block."
OK, enough about the offense, Kelvin Sampson's tenacious defense won this game for Oklahoma tonight. Focusing its effort on shutting down Oklahoma State's Melvin Sanders and Tony Allen, the Sooners forced Victor Williams to try and win this one on his own, and the load was more than he could bear.
Sampson has used this thought process before. In the 2001 Bedlam match-up in Norman, Sampson decided that OSU star Maurice Baker would get his points, but that the key to Oklahoma's success was to shut down everyone else. Baker scored 31, but no other Cowboy reached double figures as OU won 68-56.
Tonight, Victor Williams scored 18, but the only other Cowboy to reach double figures was Ivan McFarlin with 10, the majority of those on dunks at the end of the game when the outcome was no longer in doubt. Sanders and Allen combined for only seven points while shooting a frigid 2-of-18 from the floor.
"We wanted to establish our inside game," Williams said. "We didn't do a good job of getting the ball down low. We took too many perimeter shots. If we're going to get back to where we earlier in the season, we have to establish an inside game."
The 2-of-18 shooting performance of Sanders and Allen was a micro-chasm of this night as a whole for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Get this, for every seven shots attempted by OSU, five were misses. 28.6 percent is clank city, and a percentage that horrid will not win you any ballgames. Oklahoma's relentless defensive pressure, which also caused five steals and blocked eight shots, had a lot to do with it.
"When you miss easy shots your defense is only going to hold up so long when you play against a good basketball team," said OSU head coach Eddie Sutton. "You are not going to beat even the Sisters of the Poor if you shoot 28 percent."
Oklahoma may get a day to celebrate this victory, but a crimson and blue cloud looms on the horizon. The Kansas Jayhawks, best in the league with a 10-1 conference record, fly into Lloyd Noble on Sunday, an arena that they have not lost in since 1996.
Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. and a national television audience will be tuning in on CBS. This game may not only decide the conference
championship, but it may also determine which Big 12 team receives a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Tonight's game was big, but they don't get much bigger than the showdown on Sunday.
"Every game becomes your most important game," Sampson said. "The game Sunday is going to be a battle between two very good teams. We're playing for a lot right now. We're looking forward to playing them."
BMart's Player of the Game
Kevin Bookout: 15 points and 12 rebounds in 35 minutes of action.
BMart's Play of the Game
Ebi Ere's three-pointer that put Oklahoma back up 52-36 and stopped a potential OSU run dead in its tracks. The Cowboys never really threatened again.
BMart's Heartfelt Plea
PACK THE HOUSE for Sunday's game against Kansas. Oklahoma hasn't played a home game that meant this much in years, and every Sooner that was in the house tonight needs to be back and as loud as ever on Sunday.
OU-OSU Box Score
OSU's clock stops here
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