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February 16, 2014

Scrappy Sooners come through in clutch to slip past struggling Cowboys

STILLWATER — There was no dominant team on the floor Saturday afternoon at Gallagher-Iba Arena. But Oklahoma rediscovered the identity that kept it in the upper tier of the Big 12 Conference all season.

That identity is a team that is scrappy enough to stay in games when it’s not playing well and poised enough to win them in the final minutes.

The Sooners were just that in the 77-74 victory over the Cowboys.

“Guys have won games like that all year, just hanging in there and making some good plays late and big shots late,” OU coach Lon Kruger said after the Sooners completed their first Bedlam regular-season sweep since 2009. “We know every game in the Big 12 is really tough for us. They’re all going to go down to the wire. That’s the way they’ve all been. Today was no different.”

The big shots belonged to Buddy Hield. The sophomore, who was coming off a woeful 1-for-13 shooting effort in the stunning loss to Texas Tech last Wednesday, scored 22 points.

The last six of those points came inside the 2-minute mark and from nearly an identical spot on the floor.

The first was a 3-pointer from the right wing that allowed OU to tie the game with 1 minute, 48 seconds remaining. The second, with 66 seconds to go, gave OU the lead for good.

“Coach (Kruger) called two good plays for me and I was able to execute and knock down shots and try to get a win for my teammates,” Hield said.

The Sooners (19-7, 8-5 Big 12) needed the victory to pull out of a funk during which it had dropped three of its previous four games.

The Cowboys (16-9, 4-8) were shorthanded with All-American guard Marcus Smart serving the second game of a Big 12-mandated three-game suspension. Yet they were the team that played with a sense of desperation throughout.

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