Sooners clinch Big 12 bye with 75-66 win against Missouri
NORMAN, Okla. (AP)—Austin Johnson scored 18 points and Blake Griffin added 14 points and eight rebounds while making another early return from an injury as Oklahoma clinched a first-round bye in the Big 12 Conference tournament with a 75-66 win Saturday against Missouri.
Longar Longar gave the Sooners a 55-54 lead on a tip-in off an offensive rebound that got batted around like a volleyball. Austin Johnson followed with a floater in the lane, and Taylor Griffin hit a jumper from the right side as the Sooners (21-10, 9-7 Big 12) pushed the lead to five.
Missouri (16-15, 6-10) missed four straight free throws while Oklahoma was moving ahead, and the lead reached 66-59 when David Godbold drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing with 4:13 to play.
Demarre Carroll got the Tigers back within 68-64 on a three-point play with 3:07 left, but Johnson answered with a 3-pointer and Missouri didn’t score again until Longar was called for goaltending on a Marshall Brown shot with 32.2 seconds left.
The Tigers then allowed Oklahoma to run out the remainder of the clock without fouling.
Godbold added 16 points in his final home game at the Lloyd Noble Center, and senior classmate Longar had eight points and nine rebounds. A game after scoring a career-best 25 against Oklahoma State, Tony Crocker had eight points and fouled out in only 16 minutes.
Leo Lyons and Carroll scored 18 points apiece to lead Missouri, which was outrebounded 20-10 in the second half after controlling the boards early.
It was an important win for Oklahoma, which sealed the No. 4 seed in next week’s conference tournament and finished above .500 in Big 12 play. No team has made the NCAA tournament with eight Big 12 losses, although the Sooners made a strong case with nonconference wins over Gonzaga, West Virginia and Arkansas that put their RPI in the top 30.
The return of Blake Griffin, the team’s top scorer and rebounder, certainly helped. Griffin was expected to be out until the postseason following knee surgery six days earlier, but his early return wasn’t a surprise.
Griffin was expected to miss four weeks after injuring his other knee earlier in the season, and instead was back on the court 12 days later.
He played a key role in a 11-3 run for the Sooners early in the second half, scoring six points and putting Oklahoma up 53-50 on a reverse layup off an offensive rebound.
Lyons and Brown followed with consecutive baskets to put Missouri back on top momentarily, but Longar’s basket to start a run of six straight points put the Sooners ahead to stay.
Oklahoma spent the entire first half playing catch-up as Missouri controlled the boards 22-10 and took advantage of nine offensive rebounds.
Blake Griffin got the Sooners’ only two offensive rebounds of the first half on the same possession, taking the second one back up for a layup while getting fouled. His free throw evened the score at 26-26.
Matt Lawrence followed with back-to-back 3-pointers, and Lyons made a nifty reverse layup in transition against two Oklahoma defenders for a 34-26 Missouri lead.
Oklahoma got back within 39-37 by halftime and took its first lead on Godbold’s 3-pointer to start the second half.