The Oklahoma Sooners knew what UT-Arlington was capable of. Last season, the Mavericks played them down to the wire in Arlington, in a game in which the Sooners ultimately prevailed, but only after great struggle, 63-59. In similar fashion, the Mavericks refused to go down easily on Tuesday evening, fighting with fortitude. The Sooners narrowly escaped the upset bid, eking out a 91-89 win at the Lloyd Noble Center.
Cameron Clark was absolutely on fire. The senior could not be stopped, leading all scorers with 31 points on the evening. He hit five of his even attempts from three, grabbed six boards, and pilfered the pockets of a Maverick thrice in the game, for one of the better performances by a Sooner this season. Naturally, in a tie game with 30 seconds remaining, the ball was in Clark’s hands.
With five seconds on the shot clock, Clark got the ball in the left corner. He had two options: take the three which he had been hitting all game; or drive to the basket. He chose the higher percentage shot, and took his first step towards the goal when he was fouled by Brandon Edwards. With nine seconds now remaining on the clock, Clark stepped to the line. With the game resting in his hands, Clark stayed remarkably composed. He dribbled a few times, then promptly sank the first of two. He repeated the process a second time, yielding the same outcome. Up 91-89, all Oklahoma had to do was come up with a defensive stop.
UT-Arlington made a mad rush up the court and got the ball into the hands of Reger Dowell, who, finishing with 31 points, had been hot all night in his own right. Dowell was immediately swarmed by Oklahoma defenders, and the Mavericks were forced to call a timeout with 2.1 seconds left. The second time around, the Sooner defenders were not so aggressive. A wide open Edwards was able to put up a shot that could have tied the game. Fortunately, it clanked off the rim as the Sooners breathed a sigh of relief.
Aside from Clark, two other Sooners scored in double figures; they were Buddy Hield and Ryan Spangler. Hield, who finished with 19 points, finished with a career high four three pointers, while also grabbing six rebounds (five offensive). Spangler, who finished with 16 points, also led the team with eight rebounds. Though freshman point guard Jordan Woodard had a tough time scoring the ball tonight, he set up his teammates with panache, recording a career high 12 assists.
For a while in the second half, it appeared as if Oklahoma would have an easy victory. With 12 and a half minutes remaining, the Sooners led 70-56. The Mavericks then unloaded a barrage of three-pointers as they clawed their way back into the game, making eight of their 13 threes between the 12:28 and 1:37 mark. In just over six minutes, that 14 point lead turned into an 81-81 tie. From there, it was a back and forth battle, as the Sooners would score five out of their last 10 points off of free throws to win.
Overall, it quite the scare for the Sooners. Coming into the game, certainly no one expected the score to be remotely this close. However, the Mavericks are a feisty group, which fell just three points short of Texas in Austin in late November. Considering the Sooners are still adjusting to the loss of backup point guard and sixth man Je’lon Hornbeak, who will be out 4-6 weeks with a broken foot, this game was a great learning experience and should aid them as they continue to get used to the decreased depth.
Next up, Oklahoma (10-1) will head to Houston, where it will take on Texas A&M (8-2) in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Tip-off is set for 6 PM CST on Saturday, Dec. 21 in the Toyota Center.
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