December 15, 2013

Frosh guard Woodard nets career high in win

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Oklahoma managed a 101-91 win against Tulsa in a battle between in-state rivals, a battle between brothers.

The brothers, Sooner Jordan Woodard and TU guard James Woodard, were certainly aware of the game within in the game.

James finished with 19 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Jordan said there was plenty of chirping going on between them.

"He was out there talking mess," Jordan said. "He was just mad because they lost, but it was real competitive out there."

Jordan finished with a career-high 24 points on just four shot attempts.

He hit 16-of-20 free throw shots and dropped eight dimes. There were a total of 75 free throw attempts in the game and a hideous number of fouls -- 52 -- called.

Four other Sooners ended the game in double figures scoring.

Sophomore Isaiah Cousins and senior Cameron Clark each scored 15 while sophomore Buddy Hield scored 23, and senior Tyler Neal ended the game with 12 points in 17 minutes.

OU needed every point, even after opening up an 18-point lead with 5:03 left to play in the game. The stretch that grew the Sooners lead from just two points at halftime to nearly 20 proved critical.

"It was great for us," Hield said. "Coach (Lon Kruger) said we gotta step up. My teammates just found me in the right spots, and I got to the offensive glass."

Oklahoma held a 29-17 lead with 7:53 left in the first half. TU cut that lead to seven, 33-26, by the 3:08 mark of the first 20 minutes.

When both teams headed to the locker room at halftime, Tulsa had rattled off a 19-9 scoring run that propelled the Golden Hurricane back into the game, down just 40-38. TU hit 7-of-13 from beyond the arc in the half.

The task was already tough for the Sooners when the second half started, but it would become harder still.

Sophomore forward Ryan Spangler came out of the locker room with his right calf heavily wrapped and packed with ice. He was done for the day after pulling down six boards and two points on one leg.

Spangler bruised his right calf early in the game. Whether he could have played through the pain or not, Kruger thought it was wise to shut Spangler down for the remainder of the game.

"The thought is he got kicked right on the calf," Kruger said. "Don't know exactly the extent of it at this point at all."

So down a back-up point guard in sophomore Je'lon Hornbeak who broke his foot earlier in the week and down their best rebounder in Spangler, the Sooners had to find a way to stave off a Golden Hurricane squad that was finding itself when the first half ended.

Turns out, OU was about to do the same.

Already a small lineup and whittled to something standing just tall enough for this ride, the Sooners returned to the identity they established with their first game of the season in Dallas: They ran.

They ran and, in lieu of stifling defense in the paint, dared the Golden Hurricane to plant a sneaker on the hardwood and run the floor with them, run the floor with Woodard.

Once Woodard saw out no one on Tulsa's squad to stay in front of him, he continued to drive toward the basket looking for his teammates, looking for the bucket.

"So I got the chance to go deep into the paint and found Spangler a couple times down low when they came up to defend me, Buddy one time down low," he said. "So I figured if I could get into the paint I could find shooters or hit the bigs down low or get to the free throw line."

Playing for the first time under pressure not only to perform but stay out of foul trouble without Hornbeak to relieve him, Woodard played the best game of his fledgling career.

He was the difference in a game the Sooners could have just as easily lost as they did win.

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