NORMAN, Okla. (AP) No. 23 Texas A&M wrapped up a rare win at Oklahoma with exactly what the Sooners have been missing during an extended losing streak: Defense.
Khris Middleton scored 15 points, Bryan Davis added 13 points and 10 rebounds and the Aggies held Oklahoma to its lowest second-half scoring total of the season in a 69-54 victory Saturday.
Article continues below ...
“The reason that we’re so successful is that these guys bring an unbelievable amount of toughness to the program,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “A lot of the games that we’ve won over the last four years with these guys have been because of toughness.”
The Aggies (22-8, 11-5 Big 12) held Oklahoma to only 22 points on 24 percent shooting in the second half. Over the final 28 minutes, Texas A&M – which leads the Big 12 in scoring defense during conference play – held a 55-31 scoring edge.
“I thought defensively we were as good as we’ve been,” said Turgeon, who moved to 71-29 through 100 games at A&M.
After starting out 1-25 in the series, the Aggies have won five of the last eight meetings and are now 2-14 in Norman.
Texas A&M outscored the Sooners 38-16 in the paint and shot 52 percent while winning for the eighth time in their last 10 games, including four of five on the road. Oklahoma (13-17, 4-12) has allowed its last seven opponents to shoot at least 50 percent during an eight-game losing streak, the school’s longest since February 1969.
The Sooners were within 38-36 when Tiny Gallon, who had averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds in his last two games, rolled his ankle while landing after blocking Middleton’s jumper. He had to be helped off the floor with 18:12 remaining and was noticeably limping when he briefly tried to return twice later.
Soon after Gallon was hurt, Middleton hit a 3-pointer from the left side and B.J. Holmes followed with a three-point play and a 3-pointer from the right wing as Texas A&M reeled off nine straight points for a 50-38 lead.
Middleton then followed Ray Turner’s two-handed follow dunk with four straight points as the Aggies pushed their advantage to 64-48 with 5:58 remaining.
Texas A&M still had to wait for other Big 12 games later Saturday to determine whether they’d earn one of the Big 12’s four first-round byes in next week’s conference tournament.
Tommy Mason-Griffin led Oklahoma with 16 points and also broke Terry Evans’ school record for most assists by a freshman in a season. Andrew Fitzgerald and senior Ryan Wright, playing his final home game at Lloyd Noble Center, scored 10 apiece.
The Sooners will be the 10th seed at the Big 12 tournament next week and face rival Oklahoma State in the opening round on Wednesday while trying to avoid a ninth straight loss for the first time since 1964.
A candid coach Jeff Capel pointed the finger at himself for what’s become a miserable season that started out with high hopes and a top-20 ranking. He said there have been too many personal agendas among players who have been unable or unwilling to accept their roles.
“I’ve done a poor job this year. It’s one of the worst jobs – the worst job I’ve ever done,” Capel said. “I haven’t been able to push the right buttons. We’re going to keep trying to plug away and see if we can figure it out before Wednesday.”
Capel pointed out that Oklahoma has four freshmen in its seven-man rotation after leading scorer Willie Warren had season-ending ankle surgery. However, he said that’s “not an excuse.”
The senior class that played its last game at Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday could have been a star-studded one. Scottie Reynolds bolted for Villanova and Damion James headed to Texas after Capel was hired. And he left his own team short-handed when he chased off others that would have been seniors now, including Bobby Maze (now starting for No. 16 Tennessee) and junior college transfer Juan Pattillo.
“A lot of this stuff is self-inflicted,” Capel said. “We can’t do anything about injuries but some of the things that have happened with our team are self-inflicted. That’s something that we can control that we haven’t done a good job of doing that and I haven’t done a good job of doing that.”
Tony Crocker and former walk-on Beau Gerber became the first players to play four seasons with Capel, and both got emotional while addressing the crowd in a postgame senior day ceremony.
“There ain’t nothing like playing at your dream school and I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m going to miss it so much,” said Crocker, who had four points before fouling out with 5:58 to play while preventing Middleton’s dunk on a breakaway.
Capel called the postgame speeches the only positives from the game.
“You can’t have emotion like that unless something means something to you, unless you care deeply and passionately about something,” Capel said. “A lot of our younger guys should take a cue from that. But this younger generation, I don’t know if they know how to care about anything.”