Blake Griffin scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half and Austin Johnson drilled a key 3-pointer to protect the Sooners’ lead as No. 4 Oklahoma survived a 3-point onslaught and beat the Cowboys 89-81 on Monday night.
The Cowboys had cut a 14-point deficit to one when Johnson connected from the left wing with less than 7 minutes to play and sent the Sooners (20-1, 6-0 Big 12) on their way to a 6-0 start in Big 12 play for the first time.
“Our guys don’t panic,” Sooners coach Jeff Capel said. “We think we have a team that understands how to win, and guys make plays.”
Johnson finished with a career-high 22 points and reserve Juan Pattillo added 12 as Oklahoma won its fourth straight Bedlam game for the first time since a streak that ended in 1991. Griffin, the NCAA’s top rebounder at 13.8 per game, had 19 rebounds — one more than Oklahoma State — for his 17th double-double of the season.
“When he’s in the game, he’s just great for us rebounding,” Johnson said. “We know that he’ll get almost every rebound if he’s down under the goal. He just does a tremendous job for us night in and night out.”
Byron Eaton scored 20 points to lead Oklahoma State (13-6, 2-3) in first-year coach Travis Ford’s Bedlam debut. Obi Muonelo, James Anderson and Keiton Page all added 15 points.
“There were some things they did tonight that really we just didn’t have an answer to it. We tried everything that we could do,” Ford said.
The Cowboys used their pressing defense to harass Oklahoma into a season-high 23 turnovers, but fell behind with an uncharacteristically slow start from long range combined with a spate of foul trouble.
Anderson, the Cowboys’ leading scorer, headed to the bench after picking up two fouls in the first 68 seconds of the second half. When Marshall Moses was called for a foul moments later as Griffin backed into him, Ford turned and threw his coat toward the bench.
It was the fourth of five fouls called against the Cowboys in the first 2 minutes after halftime.
Oklahoma responded by scoring the next seven points to go up 46-32 on Johnson’s basket in the lane with 17:27 left, but even that lead wasn’t safe.
Page scored six straight points to bite off the first chunk of the deficit and then hit a 3-pointer at the end of a 7-0 spurt that got the Cowboys into striking distance at 59-56 with 10:14 to play.
The Cowboys, the nation’s second-best 3-point shooting team at 41.5 percent, started out 5-for-16 from 3-point range but then hit four of their next six to make it a game. Page had a chance to tie it on a drive to the basket with 7 1/2 minutes left, but missed and then fouled Griffin on the rebound.
Griffin hit one of two free throws before Eaton connected twice at the other end to get Oklahoma State within 64-63 with 7:20 to play, but that’s when Johnson connected on his first of two big 3s down the stretch.
He hit another from the left wing with 2:31 left that pushed Oklahoma’s lead to 79-70 and all but put the game away.
“Oklahoma, they’re not a good team, they’re a great team,” Ford said. “They are a great basketball team with a lot of weapons on their basketball team. When Austin Johnson is doing what he’s doing and you’ve got that inside-outside punch, that’s dangerous.”
Johnson has been in the best stretch of his four-year career over the past two weeks. He has scored at least 15 points in four of the Sooners’ last five games, and Oklahoma is 21-1 when he hits double figures.
“He’s playing at a very high level for us right now, and when he plays that way, it makes us a different basketball team,” Capel said. “Hopefully it’s something he can continue to be consistent with.”
A storm with freezing drizzle that slowly blanketed the state in ice kept the rivalry game from drawing a capacity crowd, even after Oklahoma State announced that anyone who could make it to Gallagher-Iba Arena would be let in for free.
Oklahoma came out hot, hitting its first seven shots to take a 17-8 lead, but then let the Cowboys score eight straight points surrounding a technical foul against Tony Crocker of the Sooners. He was the second player to get a technical foul in the first 6 minutes, following Oklahoma State’s Malcoln Kirkland.
Taylor Griffin then set up Pattillo for two as the Sooners reeled off a 14-5 run, going up 31-21 on Willie Warren’s 3-pointer from the left corner. Anderson answered with consecutive 3s for Oklahoma State, but the Sooners still led by nine at halftime.
Blake Griffin turned it on in the second half, hitting all six of his shots and going 8-for-12 from the free-throw line. With him leading the way, Oklahoma shot 61 percent in the second half.
“He’s a tough guy to guard. He’s a workhorse,” Eaton said. “It’s hard to keep a guy like that down the whole game.”