OU Fends Off Texas A&M, 69-63
Jan. 17, 2009
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Blake Griffin is certainly Oklahoma's best player, but he's far from the Sooners' only threat.
Austin Johnson had 19 points and Griffin added 16 as No. 6 Oklahoma held off a late rally by Texas A&M for a 69-63 victory Saturday.
"Everyone stepped up and made plays," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "This was a team win. If there's any question whether this is a team anymore, this should dispel all of that."
Oklahoma (17-1, 3-0 Big 12) led from start to finish, but allowed Texas A&M to cut a 13-point second-half lead to two on a 3-pointer by Donald Sloan with about 2 minutes remaining.
Johnson pushed the lead to 62-57 with a 3-pointer about 30 seconds later and Johnson had four free throws and Griffin added two to secure the Sooners' fifth straight win.
"I'm used to stepping up late and making shots," said Johnson, who made three 3-pointers. "I work on shooting deep 3s and when they left my hand (today) they felt good."
Capel raved about Johnson.
"Austin Johnson was tremendous all game long," Capel said. "He stepped up for us and made plays when we needed them."
Griffin was forced to the bench several times after he got into early foul trouble. He entered the game leading the league in rebounding with almost 14 a game, but grabbed just six on Saturday.
"This win should give all our guys confidence, but the person it should give the most confidence is Blake because he doesn't feel like he has to do it himself," Capel said. "I have a lot of confidence in them and they should be confident in themselves."
Capel believes getting a win in such a hostile environment will be valuable to his team later in the season. The crowd of 12,720 was up jumping and screaming for most of the game, at times reaching a deafening roar.
Griffin got his fourth foul when he climbed over an Aggies defender on a dunk attempt with just under 5 minutes to play.
"We were doubling Griffin with the guards and that would leave someone open," Texas A&M's Josh Carter said. "Johnson seemed to be the one who was open today and he wasn't missing."
Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon was impressed with the improvement of Johnson and the Sooners' other role players.
"The reason Blake is better this year and the reason Oklahoma is better this year is because the players around him are better," Turgeon said.
Taylor Griffin added 11 points and Willie Warren had nine for Oklahoma.
Carter had 17 points for the Aggies (15-3, 1-2), who had won 11 straight at home.
A&M trailed 51-37 before going on a 15-5 run to cut the lead to four with about 5 minutes left.
B.J. Holmes added 11 points for the Aggies and Bryan Davis, Derrick Roland and Sloan all had eight.
The Sooners were effective against A&M's Chinemelu Elonu, who entered the game with three straight double-doubles, but struggled with early fouls and finished with seven points and five rebounds.
"It hurt to have Chin out of the game," Turgeon said. "He's really carried us lately."
Oklahoma scored the game's first nine points and stretched the lead to 19-6 with about 10 minutes left thanks to 2-of-10 shooting by the Aggies. Texas A&M went on an 8-2 run to get within seven and trailed 30-25 at halftime.
"That one hurts," Turgeon said. "I thought my kids never stopped trying (today). We just started bad again."