Jan 7, 2003
By OWEN CANFIELD
AP Sports Writer
NORMAN, Okla. - Hollis Price was the clear winner in this matchup of premier guards. As a result, Connecticut isn't unbeaten anymore.
Price, Oklahoma's senior leader, had a career-high 33 points, including 10 free throws in the game's final minutes, helping the ninth-ranked Sooners to a 73-63 victory Tuesday night.
Third-ranked Connecticut came in averaging 90.1 points per game, thanks in part to the play of sophomore guard Ben Gordon. But Gordon went just 5-of-18 from the field and scored 12 points, 10 below his average.
"Our goal with Gordon tonight was to make him drive," Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. "That was the key, making Gordon drive the ball, not giving him the 3-point shot."
Gordon, shooting 50 percent from 3-point range, was 2-of-7 from behind the arc. He got several good looks in close in the first half but missed most of them and Connecticut (9-1) fell into a 20-7 hole.
Price had 14 first-half points as the Sooners (8-2) took a 13-point halftime lead. He carried the Sooners after point guard Quannas White left with a sprained knee midway through the first half. The other part of Oklahoma's three-guard backcourt, Ebi Ere, scored 13 points but was just 4-of-10 from the field.
"It was one of those nights where everything that's happening for you is right on time," Price said. "All the guys just did a great job of getting me the ball."
The Sooners won their 30th straight home game, the second-longest streak in the nation behind Brigham Young's 42. The loss by Connecticut leaves No. 1 Duke and No. 17 Wake Forest as the only unbeaten teams in Division I.
Tony Robertson had 16 points and Emeka Okafor had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Huskies.
Coach Jim Calhoun praised the play of those two, but said he was disappointed in Gordon and point guard Taliek Brown. Brown had just two assists and missed all four of his shots.
"Ben's a wonderful player. He's a large reason why we're 9-1, but he had a very, very poor game," Calhoun said. "Tonight was certainly not his shining hour."
After his big first half, Price made three more baskets in the first 4:13 of the second half, including a 3-pointer that gave the Sooners their biggest lead, 51-31.
His short jumper off a UConn turnover made it 53-35 with 13:33 left. The Sooners then went 11 straight possessions without a basket and Connecticut took advantage, scoring 11 points to get within 53-46 before Johnnie Gilbert ended the spurt with a tip-in of a miss by Price with 5:52 to play.
Okafor and Rashad Anderson scored consecutive baskets to cut the margin to 55-50 with 5:05 left, but the Huskies got no closer. Oklahoma was 18-of-19 from the foul line over the final 4:43 - Price was 10-for-10.
"What I really liked about Price is early, he didn't look for his shot. He looked for his teammates, which I reminded some of our kids of," Calhoun said.
"When we did a better job on Ere, he took over. He certainly looked like a first-team All-American tonight."
Connecticut was trying for its second big comeback win of the year. The Huskies trailed Massachusetts 34-9 early in the second half on Dec. 10, and rallied for a 59-48 victory.
White left at the 11:22 mark of the first half after banging his left knee. He didn't return until 3:41 left in the game, and promptly hit two free throws to give Oklahoma a 59-52 lead.
"I knew he was a tough guy who was going to try to come back," Price said of White. "That's what he did. He knocked down those two free throws, which we needed."
Connecticut, playing just its second road game of the season, started 3-of-19 from the field.
"They got out something like 20-7, so that just shows that we weren't playing tenacious on defense or offense," Gordon said. "We were just kind of out there, and they took advantage of that."
The Huskies were 10-of-32 in the first half and missed several shots in close. Despite their shooting troubles, the Huskies only trailed 32-24 after Gordon sliced to the basket with 2:16 left. Price countered with a jumper with inside a minute to play, then he hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
This was the second meeting between the teams. Oklahoma won in Hartford a year ago, 69-67.