<
>

Lavender comes off bench to score 10

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- After starting a game on the bench, the
fire was back in Drew Lavender's eyes.

The sophomore point guard scored 10 points in his first game out
of the starting lineup and No. 21 Oklahoma ended a three-game
losing streak with an 83-60 victory over Nebraska on Wednesday
night.

Lavender had started all 53 games he played in at Oklahoma but
had been criticized recently for poor play. In the Sooners' 68-65
upset loss at Missouri on Saturday, the 5-foot-7 Lavender went
without an assist for the first time in his career.

But after entering Wednesday's game 7:39 in, he was able to get
five steals before halftime as Nebraska was careless with the ball.
He scored in double figures for only the third time in the Sooners'
last seven games.

"Drew played the way he's capable of playing tonight,"
Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. "God gives us all gifts. All
we want our kids to do is play to the best of your ability. The
worst thing that any person can say about another person is that he
didn't maximize his ability.

"Be the best you can be. If that's not good enough, that's OK,
but be the best you can be."

Terrell Everett had 18 points, Kevin Bookout scored 12 and
Jaison Williams added 10 for the Sooners (18-6, 7-4 Big 12), who
had lost four of their last five after a 10-game winning streak.

Sampson said he thought his team had lost some of its edge
during the five-game slump, but got some of that back against
Nebraska.

"When you lose your edge, these kids aren't machines," he
said. "You can't push buttons and they pop back."

Sampson said he wanted the Sooners to pressure the Cornhuskers,
and it resulted in a season-high 17 steals for Oklahoma and 26
turnovers for Nebraska -- its worst total of the season.

"I think that's how we like to play," Sooners forward Johnnie
Gilbert said. "That really gets us excited, putting pressure on
the ball and getting turnovers."

The Sooners built on a 20-point halftime lead with a 9-2 run and
led 59-32 after Williams' 3-pointer from the right corner. Nebraska
(11-11, 4-7), which has lost seven in a row to Oklahoma, trailed by
at least 20 points the entire second half until the Sooners put in
reserves with less than 3 minutes to play.

Joe McCray had 21 points and Jake Muhleisen scored 11 for
Nebraska, which suffered its most lopsided loss since a 76-51
defeat on its last visit to Oklahoma on March 8, 2003.

Guard Jason Dourisseau missed the game after reaggravating a
sprained ankle. He missed two games earlier in Big 12 play with the
same injury. Nebraska coach Barry Collier said he didn't think the
guard's absence was a factor in the Cornhuskers' turnovers.

"The turnover du jour spread around all over the court from
player to player," Collier said. "It wasn't a situation where one
guy would have corrected all of those."

The Sooners scored 37 points off of the turnovers and ran away
with the game after building a big lead early.

Taj Gray had two two-handed jams off alley-oop passes during a
10-0 run that put Oklahoma ahead 15-6. He started the spurt by
taking a lob from David Godbold and dunking it with two hands and
finished it with another slam after Everett passed it to him off
the backboard.

Muhleisen's 3-pointer from the right wing brought the
Cornhuskers within 18-15, but Oklahoma responded with a 14-2 run to
take a 32-17 lead on Lavender's steal and fast-break layup.

The Sooners closed the first half with an 8-0 run -- including
six free throws -- to lead 40-20.

Gray, Oklahoma's leading scorer, had only eight points in 15
minutes before fouling out with 4:04 to play. He had been averaging
15.8 points.

"Taj had a game tonight where foul trouble just completely took
him out," Sampson said. "But we were rolling without him. That
tells you about our team."

Sampson said he hadn't considered whether Lavender would
continue in a reserve role or return to the starting lineup.

"It's not important," he said.