Jan. 3, 2000

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson looked at a 67-63 come-from-behind victory over Lamar as just another step in the right direction for the No. 20 Sooners.

"I knew this team would be prepared," Sampson said of the Cardinals, who came in having won four straight games. "This game was good for us in a lot of ways. We haven't been in this position much. We needed that experience."

Outscoring teams by nearly 17 points per game, the Sooners (12-1) were largely untested heading into Monday night's game.

That changed as the Cardinals (6-5) came back from a 13-point first-half deficit to take the lead and force the Sooners to come from behind.

Eduardo Najera scored 25 points for the Sooners and sealed the victory with two late free throws.

"We were able to hang around until the end and we had a chance to win," said Lamar coach Mike Deane, whose team scored 11 points in the final minute to pull within two points.

"We can take a lot of positives from this game, but it's still a loss in the end."

Tim Heskett and J.R. Raymond scored 12 points each and Nolan Johnson added 10 to help the Sooners fend off Lamar.

The Cardinals pulled within two points in the final 10 seconds. With 7.7 seconds remaining, Ron Austin hit a 3-pointer with a Sooner defender in his face to make the score 65-63.

Austin quickly fouled Najera, who hit both of his free throws in the final seconds to seal the game.

After watching Oklahoma run out to a 13-2 lead, Lamar pulled to within a point with 1:29 remaining in the first half.

Landon Rowe led the Cardinals with 23 points, going 9-of-13 from the field. Spears scored 14.

Oklahoma had been holding opponents to 41 percent shooting, but Lamar made 47 percent. The Cardinals also outrebounded Oklahoma 34-32.

"Three months into the season and we forgot where we came from," Sampson said. "We need to get better. We have eight home games left and eight road games left and we need to get focused.

"We need to get back to where our identity is."

Oklahoma's only loss this season was to No. 4 Cincinnati on Dec. 22 in Norman. The Sooners begin Big 12 play on Saturday when they play host to Texas A&M.