Those who hold shares in Jabahri Brown Is Overrated Inc. better call their broker and sell. Feeding off the early-game intensity of their fallen teammate, the Oklahoma Sooners built a 32-point second half lead en route to a 77-70 win over the Kansas Jayhawks.
In the biggest game at Lloyd Noble in years, the Sooners came out with more intensity than they've shown in any contest this year.
"When you play a team like OU, you're not going to turn the tables with a team like Oklahoma," said Kansas coach Roy Williams. "In the first half we didn't even belong in the building with OU. We didn't deserve to be in the same league."
Jabahri Brown dominated from the opening tip. He scored seven early points and grabbed two offensive rebounds. The stat that most of the 12,000 plus will remember were his two sensational blocks, both coming when Kansas had early opportunities at lay-ups. The blocks, one slammed off the glass and the other deposited three rows into the southeast floor seats, sent a message to the Jayhawks that every shot would be contested.
Eight minutes were all that Jabahri could play before a concussion sidelined him for the rest of the game, but his teammates were certainly aware of the emotion that Brown was displayed.
"We got our intensity from Jabahri today," said OU senior Hollis Price. "He started out great and after he got his concussion, we just kind of fed off of his play."
The Sooners found themselves in quite a dilemma following Brown's injury. Kevin Bookout already had two fouls and Johnnie Gilbert had his hands full with KU frontcourt mates Nick Collison and Wayne Simien. Sampson looked down his bench to the only man left to do the job: Jozsef Szendrei.
"He just played his hardest. I couldn't be more proud of him," said OU coach Kelvin Sampson. "He had 11 rebounds and I thought he was our best post guy today."
That was a theme today for Oklahoma. Unsung players who normally don't see too much time on the floor were sent into the cauldron due to foul trouble. Matt Gipson, Blake Johnston and Szendrei combined to tally 33 minutes, extremely valuable time considering that Oklahoma was basically without two starters in Brown and Johnnie Gilbert, who only played 11 minutes before fouling out.
"I thought the guys off the bench did a really good job," Williams said. I thought Jozsef Szendrei bought some minutes for them."
Even though many unsung heroes had time to shine, Oklahoma's duo from New Orleans carried the offensive load. Price and Quannas White each had 19 points and combined to go 7-of-9 from behind the arc.
Kansas guard Kirk Hinrich and his teammates Nick Collison and Keith Langford, who finished with 21, 15 and 11 points respectively, nearly pulled off an amazing comeback. Once OU went up 59-27, the Jayhawks began a furious rally that coincided with the depleted Sooner lineup running out of gas.
A Langford three set off a 21-5 Jayhawk run to close the game to 64-48. The teams split the next 12 points before Kansas rumbled off the next seven and all of a sudden the score was 70-61 with 2:13 remaining.
"When you combine great defense with making shots, it's going to balloon a lead," Sampson said. "We knew Kansas would come back. Their program's too good. Their players are too tough."
OU was able to hold off the Jayhawks at the end of the game, but not with their patented free throw shooting of years past. At one point during the waning minutes, Oklahoma missed six consecutive free throws, including two by Hollis Price, who had canned a school record 36 straight before that.
The fired up OU crowd didn't get a chance to exhale until De'Angelo Alexander sank four free throws with under 30 seconds to play. The Midwest City freshman is starting to show more and more offensive firepower, and his 12 points today are an indication of ever-growing improvement. His final free throw put Oklahoma up 77-68, and two late free throws by Jeff Hawkins concluded the scoring at 77-70.
"This was a big win and every game is really important," Price said. "We knew that we had a chance to tie Kansas for first place in the conference and we found a way to win."
Taking a cue from Price, Oklahoma's next game once again becomes its most important. The Sooners are now 10-2 in the Big 12 and tied for first place with the Jayhawks, but a road game on Wednesday with Missouri looms.
The Tigers won't be happy after getting demolished by Colorado in Boulder on Saturday. You can also bet that Oklahoma's current nine-game winning streak over Quin Snyder's club will come up more than once during the team meetings this week in Columbia.
Still, games like today and the one on Wednesday are ones that have to be won if you want to be the conference champion, and Oklahoma is looking more and more like the heir to Kansas's throne. Tip-off in Columbia is set for 8 p.m.
BMart's Player of the Game
Jabahri Brown: seven points, two rebounds and two blocks in only eight minutes to go along with phenomenal intensity that the rest of his teammates fed off of for the rest of the game.
BMart's Play of the Game
Jabahri Brown's block of a Michael Lee lay-up early in the first half. It was the most devastating block I've ever seen at the Lloyd Noble Center.
Brown's intensity fuels Sooners
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