Freshman guard registers career high in points and OU shoots Capel-era-best 61.2 percent in win over Central Arkansas.
Dec. 30, 2010
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- In the best shooting performance of Jeff Capel's tenure at Oklahoma, the Sooners needed every last basket to put away Central Arkansas and stay perfect at home this season.
Freshman Cameron Clark scored a career-high 26 points, and Oklahoma let an 11-point lead slip away before beating the Bears 76-73 on Thursday night.
"Coach told us in the locker room the best thing we did tonight was find a way to win," point guard Carl Blair said. "Obviously, a lot of people didn't play well. Cameron played his butt off, but a lot of the other guys, we didn't play up to par as we should have, but we found a way to win."
Central Arkansas (4-9) rallied back to tie it twice in the final 5 minutes, but Oklahoma was able to answer both times.
Blair drove for a layup with 2:06 remaining to put the Sooners (7-6) ahead to stay, and Andrew Fitzgerald followed with a three-point play for extra cushion.
Chris Henson missed a potential tying 3-pointer from the left wing with 37 seconds left, and Blair and Clark sealed the win with three free throws.
"We just have to be able to execute at the end of game," Central Arkansas coach Corliss Williamson said. "Time and score, I think we didn't understand that a few times. We tried to fire the 3-point shot when we could have attacked the basket and gotten a layup, and we didn't do it. So, there were a lot of good things and a lot of teaching points."
Imad Qahwash led Central Arkansas with 15 points, and Dewan Clayborn scored 13.
Clayborn finished a run of seven straight points with a 3-pointer from the left wing as the Bears finally pulled even at 62 with 4:54 remaining after fighting their way back throughout the second half.
Blair and Cade Davis responded with six straight points for Oklahoma, but Mike Pouncy and Qahwash answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to tie it at 68 with 2:40 left.
Blair got into the lane for a layup to put the Sooners back ahead, then Fitzgerald lost the ball in the lane, got it back, fought through Pouncy's attempt to force a jump ball and banked in his shot while getting fouled. It proved to be the difference in the game.
"It's almost like he was avoiding contact throughout the game, and it was good to see him go through it and welcome the contact on that play," said Capel, in his fifth season in charge of the Sooners. "It was a big basket for us - and he finished the free throw."
Fitzgerald, averaging a team-high 14 points, finished with 11 while being limited to 10 minutes in the second half because of foul trouble.
Henson had 11 points and Mark Rutledge scored 10 for the Bears, who have an eight-day layoff before starting Southland Conference play on Jan. 8 against Lamar. The Bears were picked to finish last in the East Division.
"I'm not one for moral victories, so I told them I hope it hurts them in their stomach all night long and they can't sleep, because we need to play like this every night in conference," Williamson said.
The Sooners shot 61.2 percent and struggled when they were turning the ball over against Central Arkansas' attacking defense. Oklahoma committed seven turnovers in the first 11 minutes to fall behind 21-16, then outscored the Bears 23-7 during an 8-minute stretch without a turnover.
Clark scored 10 points during the stretch and his 3-pointer from the right wing made it 39-28 with 2:13 left in the half. It also completed a hot shooting start in which the Sooners made 16 of their first 19 shots.
Rutledge hit a running half-court shot at the halftime buzzer, and Central Arkansas got back into the game behind seven straight points from Qahwash to cut the deficit to 46-44 early in the second half as Oklahoma went without a basket for the first 5 1/2 minutes.
But when it mattered most, the Sooners were able to produce.
"That's the most important thing," Capel said, "is getting the win."