Oklahoma survive scare from UT-Arlington
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Cameron Clark tuned everything out and tried to focus on his task – make two free throws to help Oklahoma stave off an upset bid by Texas-Arlington.
As he did most of Tuesday night, he succeeded. His free throws with 9.7 seconds left capped a 31-point outing and proved to be the difference as the Sooners hung on for a 91-89 win, Oklahoma’s sixth straight.
Buddy Hield added 19 points for Oklahoma (10-1), which was prepping for a showdown with former Big 12 Conference rival Texas A&M on Saturday in Houston in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
“It was a good win, a fortunate win,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “I thought UTA did a terrific job of hanging in there close enough all night long and making shots to keep within reach and catch us there late.
“It was a good opportunity for us to work on some things. We haven’t been in that late-game situation a lot – not that we wanted to be there – but as it turned out we were and I thought our guys handled both the defensive end and offensive end pretty well late.”
The Sooners have never lost to Texas-Arlington (4-7) in seven meetings but they never really asserted control over their Sun Belt Conference opponent Tuesday. Brandon Edwards’ 18-foot jumper at the buzzer rimmed out for the Mavericks, who tied season highs for 3-pointers with 13 in 32 attempts.
“Our guys played really hard,” Texas-Arlington coach Scott Cross said. “We hit some shots, which helped us. Oklahoma shot it really well, too. Down the stretch, our zone, we finally were moving around and bouncing and we were able to get a few stops and that’s why we had the opportunity at the end of the game to win it.”
Reger Dowell, who spent three seasons at Oklahoma State before transferring to Texas-Arlington, scored 30 points for the Mavericks. Dowell entered the game with a 22.2-point scoring average, ranking him 13th in NCAA Division I.
It was the second time this season Dowell – who went 11 of 17 from the field and 5 of 8 from 3-point range – scored 30 or more points. That also was the case for Clark, who missed his career high by one point. Clark, who went 11 of 18 from the field, made a career-high five 3-pointers on seven attempts and added six rebounds and three steals, in addition to his huge free throws.
“I wasn’t really paying attention to the crowd or anything like that,” Clark said of his decisive trip to the line. “My team needed me and I was able to knock down two free throws.”
Clark said he’d hit game-winning free throws in high school “but this was much bigger.”
On paper, the matchup appeared to be a mismatch. While Oklahoma had beaten the likes of Alabama, Seton Hall and George Mason this season, Texas-Arlington had lost by 29 to Boise State and Kentucky, although the Mavericks had played Texas close, losing by three. Two of the Mavericks’ wins came against Division II Dallas Baptist and Division III Howard Payne.
But thanks to Dowell and Jamel Outler, who went 5 of 11 from 3-point range and scored 17 points, the Mavericks kept the game close all the way.
“Their guards are quick,” Kruger said. “Give them credit. But still, we have to work a little harder . we have to maintain our balance and keep our weight back and still try to be as aggressive as possible.”
A dunk by Edwards pulled Texas-Arlington even at 81-81 with 6:03 left. Clark hit a 3-pointer from the corner to put Oklahoma ahead 87-83 and Ryan Spangler followed with two free throws with 3:01 left to give the Sooners a six-point cushion. The Mavericks again rallied and got within 89-87 on a 3-pointer by Outler with 1:36 left, then tied the game on two free throws by Edwards with 41.8 seconds left.
The Sooners held the ball until Clark drove the baseline and was fouled by Edwards. After he made the free throws, Texas-Arlington looked to Dowell in the final seconds, but he was trapped by two defenders, forcing a timeout with 2.1 seconds left. Edwards took the ensuing inbounds pass from Shaquille White-Miller and shook a defender to gain an open shot that wouldn’t fall.
“It’s frustrating,” Cross said. “We need one of these wins for the program. We’ve played a very tough schedule on the road and came really close. To lose to two Big 12 teams by (a combined) five points is very frustrating, but I’m excited about the future.”
Early on, Oklahoma looked like it would run away from the Mavericks, jumping to a 21-8 lead. Texas-Arlington answered with a 14-0 run – scoring eight points in 52 seconds before Kruger called a timeout. A steal and layup by Outler gave Texas-Arlington a 22-21 lead with 11:01 left in the half.
A tip-in by Spangler 19 seconds later put the Sooners back ahead and they never trailed again, although the Mavericks pulled even at 30-30 and were down only 45-41 at halftime.
Oklahoma gradually rebuilt its lead to 70-56 on a basket by Clark with 12:34 left, but the Mavericks recorded five straight 3-pointers – including two each by Dowell and Outler – and stayed close until their final rally.
Spangler had 16 points and eight rebounds for Oklahoma, while Jordan Woodard had 12 assists to go with seven points. Edwards finished with 12 points and seven rebounds for Texas-Arlington and Anthony Walker went 5 of 5 from the field and scored 11 points.