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March 14, 2008

Sooners hold off Buffs 54-49

KANSAS CITY, MO. -- The Oklahoma Sooners (22-10, 9-7 Big 12) looked like a team incapable of handling prosperity after poor free throw shooting nearly allowed the 12th seeded Colorado Buffalos to make a remarkable comeback during a 54-49 win in the second round of the Big 12 Tournament.

A three-pointer from Tony Crocker gave the Sooners what appeared to be a commanding 51-44 lead with just 2:19 remaining in regulation, but four consecutive misses from the foul line by Austin Johnson and Crocker allowed the Buffs to pull within two points with just :30.2 left in the game.

The Sooners struggled throughout the day as they shot a paltry 32.8 percent from the floor in the Sprint Center.

Blake Griffin had his poorest outing since returning from knee surgery scoring just four points on 2-of-7 shooting. Tony Crocker led the Sooners with 12 points but buckets, and scoring runs were virtually non-existent throughout the game with Colorado.

"Obviously it wasn't a pretty game for either team, but we found a way to make some plays, get some stops," said Jeff Capel. "We found a way to get a win. At this time of year, that's all that matters, is just winning. It doesn't matter how pretty it is. It is just a matter of having more points than the other team, and we were able to do that today."

The lack of production on the offense end of the floor was countered by a much better defensive effort by Oklahoma. In the Sooners' first meeting with Colorado, the Buffs shot as staggering .606 from the field.

This time around, Capel's bunch held CU to just .346 from the field.

"I thought we did a pretty good job defensively," Capel said. "…held them to 34 percent shooting. Like I said earlier, some of it may have been fatigue on their part. We knew they had played a 50-minute game yesterday. And Roby, Hall and Higgins had played 50, 48 and 46 minutes. So maybe that had a little bit to do with it. But regardless, we found a way to win."

But even though the Sooners put up a much more stingy effort on the defensive side of the ball, they failed to capitalize during several critical stretches throughout the second half.

But the Buffs had something to do with that as well.

When Taylor Griffin converted a conventional three-point play with 5:01 remaining, the Sooners appeared to be ready to take over the game.

The Sooners had just grabbed a 45-39 lead on Griffin's hoop and harm, but CU's Marcus Hall hit a three pointer to draw the Buffalos within three at 45-42 at the 4:29 mark.

Longar Longar then turned the ball over and Roby hit another bucket on the other end to draw CU within two points at 46-44.

A Dwight Thorne three-pointer brought the Buffs within two points once again with just :30.2 remaining until the Sooners finally capitalized at the charity stripe, making three-of-four free throws in the closing seconds to secure the victory.

"We've had three pretty good games before this. I guess you thought it was a step back. It definitely wasn't a good game for us as a team," said Taylor Griffin. "It was good in the fact that we won, but I don't think anybody played great, maybe not even good. But it was enough to get the job done."

But the Sooners know today's effort won't be good enough tomorrow when the Sooners face Texas. The Longhorns dispatched Oklahoma State in the first game of the second round 66-59.

And OU knows they'll need their best effort if they have any chance of playing with the Longhorns tomorrow afternoon at 1 P.M.

"Everybody knows they're a good team," said Taylor Griffin. "They've got one of the best point guards in the nation. They've got good athletes at every position.

"We've lost to them four straight times over the last two years and it's time for a win.
We've got to be able to defend them. We've got to be able to stop Augustine and we've got to be able to put some points up ourselves."


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