December 10, 2009

Crocker Has Career Night in Sooner Win

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - With the kind of streak he was on, Tony Crocker had only one regret when halftime arrived.

"I wish there was more time in the first half," Crocker said.

Crocker scored 29 of his career-high 33 points in the first half to push Oklahoma to a commanding lead, and the Sooners beat Centenary 86-62 Wednesday night.

Crocker also had 13 rebounds and a career-high three blocks, and freshman Tiny Gallon added 16 points and 15 rebounds for his fourth double-double.

"It felt good," Crocker said. "I'm not going to say it didn't."

The Sooners (6-3) completed a perfect three-game homestand after a disappointing trip to the Great Alaska Shootout that featured back-to-back losses to San Diego and Houston and resulted in their fall from the Top 25.

David Perez had 20 points and Maxx Nakwaasah scored 13 to lead Centenary (4-4), which plays six of seven games on the road after completing a five-game homestand.

After the Alaska trip, coach Jeff Capel adjusted to a four-guard lineup and matched the 6-foot-6 Crocker against opponents' power forwards. He had his first double-double with 16 points and a career-high 16 rebounds to open the homestand against Arkansas, and finished it off in more spectacular form.

"It's one of the best performances I've ever seen live. He was just in one of those zones," Capel said. "He's a streaky shooter and earlier this morning at shootaround, I watched him make about 15 in a row. The whole time, he was saying, "I don't think I can miss.' I guess it carried over to tonight."

Crocker hit his first five shots -- three 3-pointers and two layups -- to score the first 13 points of the game before Perez finally got the Gents on the board with a 3-pointer that rattled around the rim before falling through.

Crocker answered with a 3 at the other end, and the Sooners maintained at least a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Crocker made 10 of his first 12 shots and followed his second miss by connecting from the same spot moments later after an offensive rebound by Tommy Mason-Griffin.

"One of the things I liked was that all of his shots early came within the flow of the offense," Capel said. "It wasn't like he was hunting them. They just came to him, and I thought he did a good job of mixing 3s up with driving the basketball. I thought he was terrific."

After he had scored 25 of his team's points in building a 31-10 lead, the crowd started chanting Crocker's name coming out of a timeout. He fumbled the ball away on a drive into the lane, only to rush to the opposite end of the court to swat away Pedro Maciel's layup try.

Crocker made a pair of free throws with 1:54 left before halftime to give him 29 points -- one more than he had in a win against Syracuse in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament in March. The last time an Oklahoma player scored as many points in a half was Nov. 30, 2001, when Ebi Ere had 29 in the second half of a win at Arkansas.

"Our guys didn't do a very good job of closing out on Crocker and getting to him quick enough. We have a very, very, very young team, so I think they learned from that," Centenary coach Greg Gary said.

"If he hits two, I told them you've got to understand he's probably going to feel it pretty good tonight, so you've got to make it more difficult for him. And we didn't do a very good job of that in the first half."

Perez scored eight straight points to cut Centenary's deficit to 65-50 after Capel had removed most of his starters. The Sooners responded with an 11-3 run, including Crocker's only four points of the second half, to pull away again.

Gallon said he thought part of the reason for the Sooners' current four-game winning streak -- which followed three straight losses away from home -- was that there weren't as many "egos" and the team was playing better together.

"It's not Willie Warren and Oklahoma," Gallon said, referring to the guard who received honorable mention on the preseason All-America team. "It's just the Oklahoma basketball team."



 

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