NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Oklahoma gave up only 13 baskets in its
exhibition opener, and coach Kelvin Sampson still felt like the
Sooners could have played better defense.
Taj Gray scored the first 11 points of the game and Oklahoma
didn't allow Northeastern State to make its second field goal until
more than 13 minutes had elapsed as the Sooners cruised to a 70-35
win Saturday night.
The Sooners came out in an aggressive man-to-man defense and
forced Northeastern State into quick turnovers. In all, Oklahoma
caused 23 turnovers and held the Redmen to 13-for-48 shooting.
"When you hold a team to 35 points and they only shoot 27
percent, you ought to think you defended good, right? Well, I think
we've got to get a lot better defensively," Sampson said.
Oklahoma returns its top three scorers and rebounders -- Gray,
Kevin Bookout and Terrell Everett -- from a team that went 25-8 and
shared the Big 12 regular-season title before losing in the second
round of the NCAA tournament last season. Gray, Bookout and Everett
each remained in the game until the final few minutes. All three
played 27 minutes in a somewhat lackluster performance offensively
The Sooners were 0-for-11 from 3-point range and 10-for-20 at
the free-throw line.
"I think as we go along, we're going to get a lot better,"
Sampson said. "Had we scored 140 points and made every 3-point
shot tonight, I don't know if I'd feel any different than I do
Gray, picked by Big 12 coaches as the conference's preseason
player of the year, finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds. He
scored seven before the Redmen attempted their first shot.
Bookout hit two free throws to cap a 13-0 run to start the game
Bookout, who had surgery Sept. 15 to reposition a troublesome
nerve in his right elbow, wore a protective wrap on the elbow and
finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds. Everett scored 10 points,
all in the second half.
Chris Walker, a junior college transfer brought in after point
guard Drew Lavender transferred in the offseason, started and
played the point occasionally. Sampson is trying to determine
whether he wants to play Walker at the point or use Everett, a
natural wing player who's also capable of playing the position.
"I'm going to let that work itself out. I don't know that I
have to decide that yet," Sampson said. "I don't know that I want
Terrell to be just a full-time point guard. I know Chris has got to
get better, for sure."
Sid Melvin scored eight points to lead Northeastern State, a
Division II school from Tahlequah, Okla.
The Sooners play their second and final exhibition game Nov. 12
against coach Kelvin Sampson's alma mater, North Carolina-Pembroke.
Oklahoma opens the regular season Nov. 19 against Samford.
"I saw a lot of good things and a lot of things we can work
on," Sampson said. "We'll take two or three things from this game
that we feel like we can get better at, work on it next week and be
better next week."
Freshman guard Austin Johnson sprained his right ankle. The
team took X-rays, but determined it was not broken and instead was
a second-degree sprain. His prognosis for the Sooners' game against
North Carolina-Pembroke is uncertain. ... Nate Carter, a junior
college transfer who redshirted last season, sat out the game after
having surgery on his foot. "I would be surprised if he's not back
at practice Tuesday or Wednesday," Sampson said.