NORMAN, Okla. – With the shot clock winding down on Missouri’s first possession of overtime, senior forward Rickey Paulding started a drive on the left baseline, spun away from a defender and floated in a short jumper.
Although Paulding’s shot came after the Tigers had sent the game into overtime, it was an example of how the Tigers played to recover and score a 79-75 overtime upset of No. 11 Oklahoma.
The Tigers (7-6, 2-1 Big 12 Conference) trailed 40-28 with 16:02 left, but instead of panicking, they stuck with their plan of taking the ball to the basket and to the post. A 22-9 second-half run in 9:11 allowed the Tigers to retake the lead, erasing a 12-point deficit.
“More than the win, we were proud of how we played the whole game,” Paulding said. “I just wanted to attack the zone, you know, get some easy things and help open up my jump shot.”
Against Syracuse on Monday, the most recent Tiger opponent to use a 2-3 zone, the Tigers struggled to get the ball inside, settling for 27 3-pointers. The same was the case against Iowa State on Jan. 7 when the Tigers attempted 25 3-pointers.
The Sooners (10-3, 0-2) employed the same defensive philosophy, but the Tigers were not flustered.
“Playing against this team, they try to take stuff away from you,” Paulding said. “Our main goal was just to run our offense through their defense. We knew we would have some good things with penetration and getting the ball to AJ (Arthur Johnson) and Travon (Bryant). We were able to do that. We stayed with it, and it came through for us.”
In the rally, the Tigers attempted four 3-pointers and made three of them. The Tigers finished with 12 3-point attempts.
Paulding wasn’t the only Tiger having success inside. Johnson started the run with a put back of a Paulding miss, and freshman forward Linas Kleiza scored six points during the run, four of which were scored in the paint. The Tigers outscored the Sooners 26-18 inside.
Johnson made 6-of-12 shots and grabbed four offensive rebounds.
Getting the ball inside, Bryant said, was the key to winning Saturday and will continue to be crucial.
“We got determined,” Bryant said. “We didn’t get down on ourselves. We just said, ‘Hey, we got to go out there and continue to run our offense and make them play defense.
“It’s very important (to go inside), I believe, even if we’re successful a little bit. AJ commands so much respect, along with myself and Linas and Kevin (Young). If they don’t sink down, we’re pretty much at will to score. So they’re forced to double down. That’s the way the game has to be played for us to be successful.”
Bryant, who played six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, had 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
“We did a good job in the second half on defense, but we just let them hurt us inside,” Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson said.
FANTASTIC FRESHMEN: The game included several players who might receive consideration for Big 12 Freshman of the Year, but not all of them played well.
Kleiza and Oklahoma guards Drew Lavender and Lawrence McKenzie have had impressive first seasons.
In 29 minutes, Kleiza scored 13 and grabbed nine rebounds. McKenzie led the Sooners with 16 points, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. McKenzie made two 3-pointers in the Sooners’ 14-4 run in the first 3:58 of the second half.
Although Lavender scored 12, he struggled with his shot, making 3-of-14 shots, and also had more turnovers (three) than assists (two).
Kleiza earned Big 12 Rookie of the Week on Dec. 8, and Lavender won Big 12 Player of the Week on Dec. 15. McKenzie scored a career-high 19 in the Sooners’ 84-68 win against Oral Roberts on Nov. 21.
CONLEY SITS: Junior forward Jason Conley, recovering from strep throat, did not play.
“Jason’s working his tail off, and I’m happy with what he’s doing,” Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. “(The illness has) knocked him back a little bit.”
Because of a fever of 101 degrees, Conley played five minutes against Syracuse, and Conley played three minutes against Texas A&M on Jan. 9.
Freshman guard Spencer Laurie, who has played sparingly since Conley became eligible to play, took some of Conley’s minutes. Laurie played six minutes but displayed nerves, allowing Lavender to steal the ball the first time he brought the ball up the court.
JOHNSON PASSES LAFRENTZ: With his 16-point, 11-rebound performance, Johnson moved into fourth among Big 12 double-double leaders. Johnson, who has 41 double-doubles for his career, jumped Kansas forward Raef LaFrentz, who played from 1994-98.
Johnson has a team-leading five double-doubles. Kansas forward Drew Gooden is third with 44.