Big Men Equals Big Win For Sooners

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mountaineer fans hope that Saturday night's basketball game between their team and Oklahoma is not indicative of the final outcome for Wednesday night's gridiron showdown in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Sooners used a second half rally over the final nine minutes of regulation, a desperation fallaway three from Tony Crocker in the first overtime, and a dominant stretch from senior center Longar Longar in the second overtime to come away with an 88-82 win over West Virginia in a neutral court game at the Charleston Civic Center.

Blake Griffin scored 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, and Longar scored a game-high 22 points (all after halftime) to lead Oklahoma (10-3) to the neutral court win over No. 23 West Virginia (10-2).

Oklahoma outscored West Virginia 15-9 in the final overtime, with Longar accounting for eight points over the final five minutes as two frontcourt starters for the Mountaineers – Da'Sean Butler and Jamie Smalligan – fouled out.

"What a great college basketball game," said second-year Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel. "West Virginia is a very good team. I think we are becoming a very good team. It was a heck of a win for us. I'm really proud of our guys."

"My teammates kept believing in me," Longar added, noting that his first half performance was not up to par for his standards.

West Virginia built a second-half lead as large nine points, only to see the Sooners rally on the shoulders of Griffin and Longar over the final nine minutes of regulation. Oklahoma held a lead of two points with less than a minute to play when Alexander tied the game with a short turnaround jumper over the outstretched arms of Longar. With 12.9 seconds remaining in the second half, Oklahoma's David Godbold sank two free throws to give the Sooners a 66-64 lead.

Alexander attempted to tie the game yet again with another turnaround, which fell off the backboard to the weakside, where Alex Ruoff was waiting to lay in the tying basket with less than one second remaining in regulation.

Alexander found Ruoff on a backdoor cut to open the first overtime, and Da'Sean Butler would convert an old-fashioned three-point play to give West Virginia a five point cushion over the extra frame's opening two minutes.

Oklahoma stormed back, tying the game at 73-73 with six seconds remaining on a three-point basket by Tony Crocker to ultimately send the game to a second overtime.

After an ice-cold first half from the field for both teams, Oklahoma found the bottom of the net in the second half and both overtimes, combining to shoot 20-32 over the final 30 minutes. For the game, Oklahoma shot 53.7 percent. The Sooners got to the line for 35 foul shot attempts, making 22.

The same touch did not follow the Mountaineers, who would have been added a solid out-of-conference win to their NCAA Tournament resume had they upended the Sooners. West Virginia was 15-22 from the foul line, but missed four crucial free throw attempts in the overtime periods as Oklahoma seized control. The Mountaineers finished the game an ugly five for 24 from behind the three-point line, and shot just 41.3 percent from the field overall.

"Both teams were playing well defensively in the first half, and we weren't shooting well, which I think had a lot to do with their defense," said Alexander, West Virginia's junior forward. "It was more physical than most of the games.

"We will learn when we are in this situation with Big East teams," Alexander added. "That will be good for us. We have to lock down defensively one-on-one, and we did that, but it was a little difference in getting a hand in their face."

Oklahoma out-rebounded West Virginia by a total of 45-36, with three Sooners grabbing at least seven rebounds. Only one Mountaineer, Alexander, matched that mark.

Alexander led four Mountaineer players in double-figures with 21 points. Da'Sean Butler added 15 before fouling out with three minutes to play in the second overtime, with all of his points coming after halftime. Ruoff, West Virginia's best outside shooter, finished with 17 points, but was just two of eight from downtown.

As good as OU's frontcourt of Longar and Griffin was, it was the Sooners' backcourt which impressed Huggins. Austin Johnson scored 13 points and dished out nine assists, and David Godbold added 18 and seven rebounds.

"Their guards won the game," said Huggins. "They were able to penetrate, and when we had to play help defense that let their post players score."

"We could have won the game, but we just gave it up," said Butler, who has been plagued by foul trouble often this season. "We kept giving their team opportunities to stay in the game."

West Virginia will now enter a tough four game stretch to open Big East play, beginning with Thursday night's game at Notre Dame.

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