DALLAS -- The painted blue area underneath the basket might as well have been a Crimson-colored freeway during the first 10 minutes of Oklahoma's regular season-opener against Alabama.
The Sooner left the paint so open the Crimson Tide could've ran a Peterbilt through it. Instead, the Tide did the next best thing: run a layup line through it.
Still, Oklahoma found a way to win 82-73 at American Airlines Center.
SCOOPHD: SOONERS WIN SEASON OPENER, 82-73
Click Here to view this video.
video by Eddie Radosevich
OU was so helpless to stop Tide players from driving the lane and putting the ball through the basket that they allowed Alabama to open up a 26-10 lead midway through the first half of play.
"I looked at the score and was like 'Wow, we gotta pick it up,'" said sophomore Buddy Hield.
Then, as Hield had in Oklahoma's two preseason games, he got hot. Hield scored 11 of his 19 points during the Sooners' scoring run that saw them pull ahead 32-31 with 3:52 on the clock for only the second time all day Friday.
With spark provided by Hield the Sooners began to play defense -- help defense to be exact. They forced Alabama to take bad shot after bad shot.
The Tide seemed incapable of missing to start the game, but when the Tide did rim out, Ryan Spangler was there to grab the board.
So much for showing rust.
The sophomore power forward was responsible for eight of Oklahoma's 17 first half rebounds. He finished with 15 points and 12 boards in his first Division I game in over a year.
"It was well worth it sitting out a year and working on my game," Spangler said. "Obviously, it's showing right now."
Tide and All-SEC preseason first team player Trevor Releford didn't do his team any favors when he picked up his third personal foul with 8:58 left in the half.
After scoring 27 points in Alabama's preseason game against West Georgia four days ago, he had just five points in the first half, 12 in the game. The Sooners were down by one-point, 41-40, at halftime.
"We don't want to be like that," Spangler said. "We don't want to be down."
There was 13:58 left in the game when Hield hit a corner trey to give Oklahoma a 54-51 lead. A few minutes later, freshman Frank Booker extended that lead with another 3-pointer to 59-53.
Senior Cameron Clark came on late for 14 points to help the Sooners put the game out of reach for the Tide, which was just how they'd played the game for the last week -- come on late, come on strong.
"Opened up a little shaky and dug ourselves a little bit of a whole, and not that you want to get in that spot," Lon Kruger said. "But to see our guys respond the way they did with their activity and kind of clawing their way out of there by halftime was good to see."
That's been good enough for the first week of November, the first game of a long season. But this Oklahoma team needs to continue to mature.
These aren't the kind of games the Sooners should be winning from behind if they expect to compete in the top heavy Big 12 conference come January. These are the kind of games they should win and win convincingly.
The good thing for Sooner fans to know is the tools are in place to do just that.
HAMILTON TO TRANSFER
Following Oklahoma's game against Alabama, Kruger said junior-college transfer Keshaun Hamilton will look to transfer at semester's end. Hamilton was not at practice earlier in the week.
"It sounds like he's going to transfer," Kruger said. "Don't know where yet. Trying to help him finish out the semester academically and be in good standing. He's a terrific young guy, and he handled it very well."
Hamilton was concerned about playing time with junior forward D.J. Bennett and Spangler ahead of him in the rotation. Hamilton was Oklahoma's only true center.