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March 1, 2014

OU blows out UT and nabs season sweep

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Kelvin Sampson's 1998-99 Sweet 16 team couldn't do it. Nor could his 2001-02 Final Four team or his 2002-03 Elite Eight squad.

The 2008-09 Sooners couldn't do it either, even with the nation's best player -- Blake Griffin -- leading the charge. But this team, this 2013-14 Lon Kruger coached team, could.

This team did.

With its 77-65 win against No. 24 Texas on Saturday, the Sooners accomplished what no other OU men's basketball team had in the history of the Big 12 -- sweep both the Longhorns and Oklahoma State in Big 12 play.

"It's so tough to do that because Texas is always good, and Oklahoma State is always good," Kruger said. "Something our guys can be proud of. Doesn't help us the next ballgame any, but they understand that too."

The Sooners pulled off the feat with outstanding guard play. Sophomore Isaiah Cousins scored a career-high 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

"I'm just really trying to stay aggressive and be more consistent," Cousins said.

Buddy Hield came on strong late and finished with 17 points. Je'lon Hornbeak and Frank Booker came off the bench for a combined 15 points on a combined 6-of-10 shooting.

All told, the Sooner guards outdueled the Longhorn guards 58-23, and OU held Texas guard Javan Felix to just two points. When the Sooners last played Texas in Austin, Texas, Felix lit them up for 28 points.

"Coach [Kruger] was just telling us we have to play better on him, make him make tough shots," Hield said. "He's a guy who can go in spurts, so we just tried to do our best switching on him and using our length against him. I think we did a very good job against him."

UT coach Rick Barnes' squad struck OU at its softest spot early in the game -- the post. In short order, the Sooners were down 8-4 early in the game.

Texas center Cameron Ridley scored 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting against the Sooners in the first half. He finished with a double-double: 19 points, 14 boards.

He was responsible for helping get senior Cameron Clark and sophomore Ryan Spangler into early foul trouble while banging away at OU in the paint. Spangler was held to just five points, but he did pull down 10 boards.

"You try not to give (Ridley) easy baskets, but he fights for position down there," Spangler said. "He's hard to guard."

The Sooners struck back with their strength -- 3-point shooting.

They hit five treys in the first half, including one from Hield in the midst of a 13-4 scoring run that gave OU the lead. The Sooners made 10-of-25 3-pointers.

No Sooner scored in double figures in the first half but all who played minutes save D.J. Bennett scored at least two points. OU's bench outscored the Longhorn bench 14-4 in the half, and the Sooners outscored Texas 16-3 in points off turnovers.

It didn't hurt OU that Texas shot horribly from beyond the arc, hitting zero of its seven 3-point attempts and just 5-of-9 free throws in the first half. By halftime, Oklahoma led Texas 32-25 at Lloyd Noble.

Cousins, who hadn't taken a free throw in the first half, hit 8-of-9 from the charity stripe in the second half.

Senior Tyler Neal came off the bench for six points and seven boards on Senior Day and kept up OU's post defense when Spangler and Clark had to leave the game early with foul trouble, manning up the likes of Jonathan Holmes and Ridley.

The Sooners stripped Texas eight times. Cousins and Hield accounted for three steals apiece. So the heat was on the Longhorn guards almost from the beginning.

But they didn't help themselves much either.

After all, half of Texas' 16 turnovers were their fault, and Barnes knew it. Every Longhorn guard but Damarcus Croaker turned the ball over at least once.

"The thing that bothers you with the guards -- turnovers," he said.

Barnes didn't believe anything much had changed in the two months it had been since OU and Texas last played. But maybe that's being a bit too simple.

The last time OU and Texas played each other the Longhorns scored 85 points or 20 more than they did today. It's quite possible the Sooners have learned how to play defense as a team just a few games before postseason play begins



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