STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Emeka Okafor had a hard time hiding a
smile. That happens when you and your team play a game that has
people throwing around superlatives and compliments.
Okafor fell one blocked shot short of a triple-double and No. 1
Connecticut put on one of the most impressive defensive displays of
the season, knocking No. 6 Oklahoma from the ranks of the unbeaten,
"That's easily the best defense we played all year and we did
it against a quality opponent," Okafor said. "Everything's
contagious. The great defense led to our offense and it just keeps
on going. We were all in synch and it showed out on the court."
Did it ever.
Connecticut's defense was so good that Huskies coach Jim Calhoun
said one of the officials commented to him after the game it was
the best defense he had seen this season.
"We had flashes of being exceptional," Calhoun said. "We had
the tempo we wanted and the defense allowed that. Emeka's
shot-blocking allowed that.
"It would take me a while to find a game where we played as
well as that as far as everything combined."
Okafor, the leading vote-getter on the AP's preseason
All-America team, had 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocked shots
for the Huskies (13-1). He had a triple-double earlier this season
against Army with 18 points, 15 rebounds and 10 blocked shots.
With the 6-foot-10 Okafor anchoring things in the middle,
Connecticut contested every pass and forced the Sooners (10-1) into
quick shots time after time in winning their 10th straight game.
"They may be as good as anyone we've played in 10 years,"
Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. "Their team speed, until you
see them up close and personal you don't know how fast they are.
... They impose their transition game on you. Connecticut was just
shoving down our throats."
Oklahoma came into the game shooting 43.7 percent from the field
with its worst outing 41.1 percent in a win at Michigan State. The
Sooners' second real road game of the season had numbers that
looked more like middle infielders' batting averages.
Oklahoma finished 20-for-73 from the field (27.4 percent). The
Sooners were 8-for-35 (22.9 percent) in the first half and
struggled to match that as Connecticut pulled away to lead by as
many 40 points.
The Sooners were able to handle Connecticut's reserves, closing
the game with a 14-2 run.
"We wanted to show everybody we belong where we're ranked and
we're working hard," Okafor said. "This game was special because
Oklahoma beat us two games in a row. We thought it was our time to
shine. We came in with the right mindset."
Connecticut shot 52.3 percent for the game (34-for-65) and
finished with a 50-37 rebound advantage.
"We showed a lot of the wares we have and what we can do,"
Freshman Drew Lavender had 22 points and seven assists for the
Sooners, while Jason Detrick had 16 points.
"We were missing shots we should have made but they were
playing great defense as well," Detrick said. "We were trying to
shoot over Emeka or Josh Boone or Villaneuva instead of trying to
make the extra pass they were baiting us in there and we were
falling for it."
The win improved Connecticut to 6-1 against Top Ten teams in
Gampel Pavilion and made Calhoun 1-4 against Oklahoma with two
losses each at Northeastern and Connecticut.
Oklahoma had had success against top-ranked teams, winning five
of its last seven meetings with a No. 1.
Connecticut's most impressive defensive stance came in the first
half when the Huskies held Oklahoma scoreless for 7:46 in taking a
28-10 lead. The Sooners missed 12 shots in that span, making them
5-for-28 at the time, 3-for-23 from inside the 3-point line.
The sellout crowd of 10,167 was enjoying every second of the
defensive performance with the loudest cheers coming when Okafor
blocked a shot that led to his easy layup that made it 80-42.
"Okafor is the star but doesn't play like it," Sampson said.
"He plays every game like it's his last game and I respect that.
The game doesn't come easily to everybody, it really comes easy to
It was Oklahoma's worst loss since being beaten 72-44 at
Oklahoma State on Feb. 14, 2001.
Four-star power forward Royce Hamm ended his recruitment on Friday with a commitment to head coach Shaka Smart and the Texas Longhorns after also considering Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Baylor and Houston among others.
Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes did his best Stone Cold Steve Austin impression and brought the pain to some fellow Badgers.
Avery Johnson's first season as a college coach was a success by most measures, and he'll aim to keep the Crimson Tide rolling in the right direction.