Team Effort Leads to Victory Over UT
NORMAN, Okla. -- Blake Griffin and Oklahoma finally had enough of losing to Texas.
Griffin racked up his 14th double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Sooners (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) to a 78-63 victory over the 11th-ranked Longhorns on Monday night, snapping a six-game losing streak to their Red River rivals.
Only two players on Oklahoma's team had ever beaten the Longhorns. Even third-year coach Jeff Capel didn't have a victory in the rivalry.
"For us to come in and get that first one, it feels good," Griffin said, "and hopefully it kind of sets the tone for the rest of the Big 12 season."
Oklahoma's last win in the series came in Norman in 2006, but the Longhorns routed the Sooners 72-48 in the rematch that season and went on to win each of the next five meetings by double digits as well.
Texas never even took the lead on Monday.
Willie Warren scored 17 points and Tony Crocker added 16 points and nine rebounds as the Sooners (16-1, 2-0) built a 16-point lead early and then thwarted a second-half rally.
"It means a lot to all of us just to get this win," said Crocker, who lost his first five games against the Longhorns.
Damion James brought Texas (12-4, 1-1) within 54-50 with a 3-pointer from the right wing with 11:13 to play, but the Longhorns then went 6 1/2 minutes without scoring.
Warren's driving layup started a 12-0 run for the Sooners, and Taylor Griffin's two free throws pushed the lead to 66-50 with 5:05 remaining.
A.J. Abrams led Texas with 22 points on 8-for-27 shooting -- including 3-for-15 from 3-point range -- and James scored 12 points.
"Any time we're forced into a situation where A.J.'s got to take 27 shots, it's not going to be good," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. James, the Longhorns' second-leading scorer, spent most of the first half on the bench as Barnes sought a group that could stick to his defensive game plan.
James and starting point guard Justin Mason both were taken out in the opening minutes, and Barnes hooked them again as the Longhorns continued to struggle. Barnes got all the way to the end of the roster, with Harrison Smith playing for only the fourth time this season, as Oklahoma built a 24-8 lead after Blake Griffin's two-handed alley-oop dunk on a pass from Crocker.
That made the Sooners 10-for-19 from the field and they had forced seven turnovers. It was a big enough edge that the Longhorns never could fully overcome it.
"The first 10 minutes killed us. We didn't come out with the right intensity, and they kind of brought it to us the first 10 minutes," Abrams said.
"I think we did a good job of fighting back, but late in the game it kind of got away from us."
The Longhorns would get as close as 25-19 on backup point guard Dogus Balbay's transition layup, but the Sooners were able to build their lead back to 11 by halftime.
Oklahoma then shot 65 percent from the field in the second half while holding Texas to 31 percent. The Sooners forced nine straight empty possessions by the Longhorns after the lead was cut to four.
Austin Johnson finished with 15 points for the Sooners, who had six players score.
"Hopefully it makes other people around the nation see that we're not just a mediocre team. We've heard so much talk about Texas -- talk about their big guys, talk about their guards, talk about Abrams," Blake Griffin said.
"We personally, as a team, feel that people kind of disrespect us a little bit with the way they talk about our guards and the way they talk about our post defense and anything like that. For us to come out and make a statement like this was big for us and the program as a whole."
Oklahoma had been the preseason Big 12 favorite, but this was the first chance to assert itself on the court as the true conference front-runner.
"It does kind of put us on the path," Blake Griffin said. "But at the same time beating Texas isn't the end of the road for us."