Gray's double-double helps Sooners dump Southern

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Taj Gray's old roommate remembers when the Oklahoma forward was dominating at the junior-college level.

On Saturday night, Chris Alexander got a chance to see how Gray had developed into a force at college basketball's highest level.

After a slow start to his season, Gray continued his resurgence with 22 points and 14 rebounds and Oklahoma (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) beat Southern
University 68-54.

"I think I'm getting better looks," said Gray, giving credit to his guards for getting him the ball in position. "I get good shots because of them. They really help me out."

Gray, the Big 12 preseason player of the year, averaged only 10.3 points over Oklahoma's first four games but has averaged 20.7 points over the past three.

He equaled his season highs in points and rebounds and notched his second double-double. Over the past three games, he's shooting 71 percent from the field.

"Taj is All-American," said Alexander, who was Gray's roommate for two seasons at Redlands (Okla.) Community College and scored a career-high 20 points to lead Southern. "I knew he was going to be good when I first met him at Redlands.

"He was an All-American there and led us to the national tournament. I knew from then on he was going to be a great player and have a great career," he said.

Gray averaged 18.1 points and 10.8 rebounds on a Redlands team that went 35-2 two seasons ago and lost in the championship game of the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament.

"He's pretty much the same on the court," Alexander said. "He's goofy or whatever, but he plays hard all the time."

Gray hit two free throws and then put back a miss by Kevin Bookout
as Oklahoma (6-1) scored the first five points of the second half to go up 41-27. But it wasn't until after the Jaguars (1-7) ended a six-minute stretch without a field goal that Oklahoma was able to extend its lead.

Bookout had three baskets during a 13-5 run that Michael Neal
and Terrell Everett completed with 3-pointers on consecutive possessions for a 58-39 lead.

After another 3 by Everett gave Oklahoma its biggest lead at 21 points. The Jaguars then closed the game with an 11-4 run.

Bookout was only 4-for-11 from the free-throw line but finished with 16 points. Everett added 10 points and Neal, who missed his first six 3-point attempts in his first career start, scored nine points on 3-for-13 shooting from 3-point range.

Oklahoma was 5-for-24 from 3-point range and shot only 38 percent overall but committed a season-low 10 turnovers and benefited from 27 offensive rebounds.

"We dominated every phase of the game. We could not make a layup, we couldn't make a free throw, we couldn't make an open jump shot," Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. "Had we done all those things, we'd be sitting here talking about how great we played."

Alexander scored 16 of Southern's first 20 points and pulled the Jaguars within 23-20 with his 3-pointer from the left wing. Alexander hit four 3-pointers in the first half and was 6-for-8 from the field while his teammates shot 5-for-18.

"I was really excited. The minute I found out we put them on the schedule, I knew that my family, all my friends, everybody that I knew from Oklahoma was going to be here," said Alexander, who is from Lawton in southwest Oklahoma. "So I was ready to play."

Alexander, who was 0-for-5 in the second half but made four free throws, said he was impressed with Gray -- particularly in one area.

"He's worked on his free-throw shooting," he said of Gray's 6-for-8 performance. "I can see that."

Gray said he's the same person he was when he arrived at Redlands, but his skill level has gone up over the past 3½ seasons.

"I think I've become a lot better of a basketball player just being a lot smarter," Gray said. "I have a lot more confidence on the floor. I owe a lot to Coach Sampson and the coaching staff and especially the players."


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