Dec. 2, 2009
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- For most of the last week, Oklahoma basketball coach Jeff Capel preached the virtues of playing defense to a squad that seemed to have forgotten how to do so during a three-game losing streak.
Cade Davis listened well. Davis effectively shut down one of the nation's top scorers, Arkansas sophomore Rotnei Clarke, and added 11 points in a career-high 38 minutes as the Sooners rallied from an early deficit to beat the Razorbacks 67-47 on Wednesday night.
Tony Crocker scored 16 points and added a career-high 16 rebounds for his first career double-double for Oklahoma (4-3), which won in front of a Lloyd Noble Center crowd that included Oklahoma football legends - and native Arkansans - Barry Switzer and Keith Jackson, who watched from courtside.
Making his 10th career start, and his third in a row, Davis constantly hounded Clarke, a former Oklahoma high school star who entered with a 26.7-point scoring average and 35 3-pointers in six games.
An admittedly exhausted Davis said he welcomed the opportunity to guard Clarke.
"Coming in, we knew his stats," Davis said. "We knew he was shooting the ball really well. I took it upon myself to try and limit his shots."
With help from his teammates who warned him of the numerous screens the Razorbacks set for Clarke, Davis succeeded in doing just that. Clarke finished with 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting and made just 1-of-6 3-point attempts.
"They did a good job defensively," Clarke said. "They made sure they knew where I was at every possession. That's a tribute to their defense."
Arkansas (2-5) entered the game averaging 86.2 points but posted its lowest point total since losing 55-45 to Mississippi on March 6, 2004.
"I was excited to see in the locker room that the guys were talking about defense," Capel said. "They were proud of their defensive effort."
Marshawn Powell led the Razorbacks with 12 points and eight rebounds. Arkansas has lost 20 of its last 24 games dating to last season, including its last four.
The Sooners now are 6-1 all-time against Arkansas, but last season, the unheralded Razorbacks stunned then-No. 4 Oklahoma 96-88 in Fayetteville, Ark. For a time Wednesday, it appeared Arkansas, despite having only 10 players in uniform, again might pull off the upset.
As the Sooners focused on slowing down Clarke - hounded by Davis, he managed only two shots in the first 10 minutes - Clarke's teammates more than picked up the slack, patiently working the clock on most of their possessions. Arkansas twice led by eight points, the latter time at 25-17 after a 3-pointer by Jemal Farmer with 3:14 left in the first half, and appeared in control of the game.
"I thought we played beautifully the first 18 minutes of the game," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said.
Then Oklahoma suddenly couldn't miss.
Oklahoma closed the half on a 17-2 run, punctuated by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Steven Pledger that sent the joyous Sooners running off the court with a 34-27 lead. Oklahoma started 1 for 8 from 3-point range but made six of its next seven shots from behind the arc in the final 3:32 of the half, including two each by Tommy Mason-Griffin and Crocker.
"It's kind of like a chain reaction," Crocker said of the late burst.
The Sooners pushed their lead to double digits early in the second half and Arkansas didn't score another basket until 5 1/2 minutes after halftime. The Razorbacks started the half 1 of 12 from the field.
"I thought we had a chance to get back in the game if we could score at all," Pelphrey said.
Arkansas pulled to within 49-41 with 7:31 left but Willie Warren - who Capel benched in the Sooners' previous game, a win over Nicholls State in the Great Alaska Shootout - guided the Sooners from there, scoring eight of his 13 points in the final 4:28. Mason-Griffin also finished with 13 points.