NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- A rebounding rout resulted in Oklahoma's
most impressive win of the season.
Led by the frontline duo of Kevin Bookout and Taj Gray, the
Sooners (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) outrebounded Alabama 40-18 in a 68-56 victory
on Saturday.Senior guard Terrell Everett had a career-high 10 assists for
the Sooners, who extended their home winning streak at Lloyd Noble
Center against nonconference opponents to 46 games, the longest in
NCAA Division I."You have to take what you're good at and work with it,"
Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said.For Oklahoma, that is rebounding.The Sooners (8-2) entered the game third in the nation in
rebounding margin at plus-12.6 per game. This season, Oklahoma has
outrebounded Samford by 28 and Belmont by 22 and has only been
beaten on the boards by one team, Oral Roberts.But Alabama (6-5), the preseason favorite to win the
Southeastern Conference's West Division, isn't Samford or Belmont
or Binghamton or Southern, teams that have dotted Oklahoma's early
season schedule. The Crimson Tide's three starting frontline
players were 6-foot-10, 6-8 and 6-8, giving Alabama a slight size
advantage over Oklahoma.But it did little good for the Crimson Tide, who had one
offensive rebound the entire game -- compared to 16 for the Sooners."Any time you get outrebounded by 20, that's embarrassing,"
said Alabama guard Ronald Steele, who scored 18 points.The rebounding came from almost every position for the Sooners.
Bookout had 18 points and eight rebounds, while Gray finished with
13 points and seven rebounds. The pair combined to go 11-of-11 from
the free throw line. The Sooners missed only one of 18 free throws.Everett, the point guard, also grabbed seven rebounds and had
one more assist than the entire Alabama squad. Fellow guard Austin
Johnson, a freshman who has been hobbled by an ankle injury for
almost two months, contributed a career-high 14 points, five
rebounds and three steals in 26 minutes."Tonight we took a step forward and you have to look at the
positives," Sampson said. "I'm not the type to sit around and
analyze what we don't have. I'd rather emphasize what we do have. I
emphasize rebounds with our guards."Neither team led by double digits until the final minute, when
Alabama began fouling in an attempt to get back into the game.
There were 15 lead changes.Oklahoma took the lead for good at 46-44 with 13:23 left on a
three-point play by Gray.The Sooners eventually built the margin to 60-51 with 5:11 left
and the Crimson Tide never seriously threatened after that. Alabama
had only one field goal over the final 8:16, a 3-pointer by Steele
that closed the gap to 62-56 with 59 seconds left.But Bookout hit two free throws moments later and Johnson made
four more free throws in the final 35 seconds for the Sooners.Alabama's leading scorer, senior forward Chuck Davis, had 14
points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first half, but the Sooners
limited him to four points after halftime."They fronted me in the post (in the second half) and they
really weren't going to let me get the ball," Davis said.The Crimson Tide, playing only its second road game of the
season, shot 63.2 percent from the field in the first half but only
33.3 percent in the second half."I'm proud of how we played," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried
said. "We're not there yet. We're disappointed we lost, but we're
coming. We're coming."We're sitting here at 6-5, but I like my team. I really like
my team."Alabama, which began the season ranked before losses to Memphis,
Notre Dame, Temple and North Carolina State, jumped ahead 14-8 and
Oklahoma didn't take its first lead until the 10:38 mark of the
first half.That was the first of nine lead changes before halftime, at
which point Oklahoma led 32-31.