(12) Connecticut 65

(9-3, 1-1 Big East)

(25) Oklahoma 77

(12-2, 1-0 Big 12)

9:00 PM ET, January 10, 2005

Lloyd Noble Center, Norman, Oklahoma

1 2 T
#12CONN 34 3165
#25OKLA 42 3577

Top Performers

Connecticut: M. Williams 16 Pts, 7 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Stl

Oklahoma: T. Gray 23 Pts, 10 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 Blk

Sooners beat Huskies for 3rd time in 4 years

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- With the help of a new arrival, Oklahoma turned its biggest loss from a year ago into a possible springboard for this season.

Junior college transfer Taj Gray had 23 points and 10 rebounds and the 25th-ranked Sooners held off Connecticut (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today; No. 12 AP) 77-65 on Monday night.

The Sooners were ranked No. 6 in the nation last season when they lost 86-59 to then-No. 1 Connecticut. They fell into tailspin that ended with the Sooners out of the rankings and missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade. They rejoined the Top 25 earlier Monday for the first time since then.

Gray recorded his seventh double-double of the season to make sure the same thing didn't happen again.

"This win this year is a big win for this group," Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. "This team hasn't had that defining win. That was a good team they beat."

Lawrence McKenzie scored 18 points, Kevin Bookout added 11 and Terrell Everett and Drew Lavender each had 10 for the Sooners (12-2), who beat the defending national champions for the third time in four seasons.

Bookout tipped in a miss by Gray to cap a string of three straight baskets and give the Sooners a 72-61 lead with 3:04 to play and hold off the Huskies (9-3).

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Gray said. "We know it's a long season, but it's a big win for us. Hopefully, we can play the whole season like this and come up with big games and big wins like this. We've got to keep it going."

It was Connecticut's third road game of the season. The Huskies lost at Massachusetts on Dec. 9, and won at Georgetown on Saturday.

"It's a shame to travel two-thirds of the way across the country and not perform the way you think your team can," Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said.

Oklahoma led by as many as 14 points in the first half and 11 early in the second before Connecticut chipped away to get back in the game.

The Sooners led 49-38 after Gray hit one of two free throws with 16:34 to play, but Marcus Williams drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to start a 10-2 Connecticut run that put the Huskies within a basket with 12½ minutes left.

From there, the Sooners struggled to put away Connecticut, but were able to keep the Huskies at bay.

Charlie Villanueva grabbed an offensive rebound and slammed it down with his right hand to get the Huskies within 61-57 with 8:13 to play, but Connecticut would get no closer.

The Sooners found ways to get inside and rebuilt their lead from there.

Gray scored on an offensive rebound to extend Oklahoma's lead to 68-61 and Lavender drove through an opening in the lane for a basket on the Sooners' next trip.

Bookout made it a double-digit lead on a third-chance basket after Gray was unable to put back Bookout's miss on a short jumper in the lane.

When Connecticut called a timeout, Bookout ran to midcourt and leaped into a chest bump with Kellen Sampson, the coach's son, then did the same with Jaison Williams.

"We knew we couldn't mess up," Lavender said. "We had to step up and make big plays, and we did."

Connecticut, which leads the nation with a plus-17.6 rebound margin, finished with a 42-39 advantage on the boards. It was the first time Oklahoma won while getting outrebounded all season.

"The rebounding strength from that team is unbelievable," Kelvin Sampson said. "A lot of teams have length but don't rebound. I think we're a good rebounding team.

"We lost the board battle by three, but that's not really losing. We battled them on the boards, and I thought it was a big key."

Marcus Williams had 16 points to lead Connecticut, while Villanueva had 13 points and 14 rebounds, and Rashad Anderson added 12 points.

Oklahoma led 42-34 at halftime after Johnnie Gilbert scored on a fastbreak layup after two Connecticut players collided at the free throw line going for a steal.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 65 77
FG Made-Attempted 25-71 (.352) 31-59 (.525)
3P Made-Attempted 5-12 (.417) 8-16 (.500)
FT Made-Attempted 10-14 (.714) 7-15 (.467)
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 15 (0/0) 15 (0/0)
Largest Lead 0 14

2004-05 Season

» Jan 10, 2005 @OKLA 77, CONN 65Recap