Oklahoma's men's basketball team had 13 of their shots blocked by Utah on Saturday afternoon. They only shot 34% from the floor and missed 8 free throws. The Sooners missed crucial free throws down the stretch in regulation that could have sealed the game and didn't score for the first two minutes of the overtime period. Yet somehow OU managed to pull out a road win against the odds. Even with their double-double machine, Tiny Gallon, sitting on the bench in foul trouble.
Oklahoma's 78-73 win over Utah was anything but a thing of beauty but it was desperately needed. It was a measure of improvement as they last time they played in an opponent's gym they were practically run out of it. It was a test of character, will and merit and the Sooners passed. The best thing to come out of this game wasn't necessarily the win but the confidence established that the Sooners can win when things don't go their way.
"I think a lot of our guys grew up today. This certainly was not a pretty game. To win on the road and only shoot 34 percent isn't good. But one of the things that we did do was show a lot of toughness." - Jeff Capel
Willie Warren was awful, again, from the floor (7-22) but yet he managed to drop off a game high 27 points by shooting his was out of a slump, drawing fouls and converting free throws. Warren made 11 of his 12 free throws and hit a three-point shot in the overtime that gave Oklahoma the lead for good. He was 2-2 in the overtime and both shots were clutch. When Warren reaches the point where his shots start falling then the rest of the college basketball world had better watch out. Until then, drawing fouls and dishing out dimes seems to be as good a plan as any.
With Tiny Gallon in foul trouble for the entire game Oklahoma was dominated down low. Utah's 7-3 center, David Foster, swatted six Sooner shots himself and OU was outscored in the paint 16-10. To counter this Oklahoma went to the guards to carry the day and despite the poor shooting percentages they got the job done. Tommy Mason-Griffin had what was possibly his best game as a Sooner, finishing with 18 points and Tony Crocker banked 12.
However, rebounding was Oklahoma's guards saved the day. Tiny Gallon was limited to just 10 minutes of playing time and while he scored almost a point per minute he only managed to grab 3 boards. Going up against a seven-footer Tony Crocker, Cade Davis, Willie Warren and Tommy Mason-Griffin pulled down 28 rebounds. Crocker got 10 for his third double-double of the season and second consecutive and Warren was just two boards away from his own double-double with 8 rebounds.
Again, it was ugly but it was just what the Sooners needed. Oklahoma returns home to face Northern Colorado next Saturday and then UTEP in Oklahoma City on the 21st before traveling to Spokane to play Gonzaga on New Year's Eve. That leaves two opportunities to build on this confidence and get ready for the toughest challenge to this point of the season.