NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Painful injuries to his thumb, heel and
groin affected every part of Michael Neal's shot and kept him out
of Oklahoma's lineup for two Big 12 losses.
He couldn't stay out any longer.
Neal scored 15 points and hit four 3-pointers in the final 4
minutes to help the Sooners (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 25 AP) fend off Texas Tech's
second-half rally for a 60-48 win over the Red Raiders on Saturday.
The junior college transfer hurt his thumb in November,
Achilles' tendon in December and groin this month. It's the latter
injury that's affecting him the most now.
"I get treatment every day, sometimes twice a day. I've got to
get this thing better," Neal said.
Still, Neal was on the floor when it counted, and Oklahoma coach
Kelvin Sampson was calling his number.
The Red Raiders (10-9, 2-3 Big 12), who trailed by as many as 22
points in the first half, pulled to 40-38 when Jon Plefka hit a
jumper from just inside the 3-point line to cap a 17-1 run.
Terrell Everett added a free throw, then set up Kevin Bookout
for a layup before Neal's first 3-pointer extended the lead to
51-40. Neal, Oklahoma's top 3-point shooter, also hit 3s on the
next three possessions, with the last putting the Sooners up 60-44.
"When the game got tight, out of every timeout we would run
something for Michael," Sampson said.
Neal missed Oklahoma's first two conference games with a groin
injury, and the Sooners (11-4, 2-2 Big 12) lost by one point to
Nebraska and two points to Missouri. Without him, the Sooners were
8-for-35 from 3-point range in the two losses.
"We could have won both of those games without me. That's a
no-brainer," Neal said. "But whenever they lose, you just feel
you could have done something to help them out."
He returned in time for Oklahoma's 45-44 win over Texas A&M last
Saturday. The Sooners had never before played four straight games
decided by two points or less, and Neal ensured it wouldn't happen
He was 4-for-7 from 3-point range and finished one point shy of
matching his career high. Everett scored 11 and Johnson had 10
while Taj Gray had 11 rebounds and Bookout pulled down 10 boards.
Oklahoma outrebounded Tech 38-23.
The losses without Neal knocked the Sooners from No. 12 to 25th
in the AP poll.
"I always knew what was wrong. We lost a one-point game and a
two-point game without our best shooter," Sampson said. "I said,
`When we get him back, we're a lot better shooting team."
Neal was feeling good enough to get to the gym each day this
week early in the morning to work on his shot, something he did on
summer mornings before the season started.
"I'm still not 100 percent, but this past week I got a lot of
time to rest," Neal said.
He missed his first three 3-point tries, but was on target when
it mattered the most.
"Once you hit that first one, you automatically feel good about
yourself," Neal said. "You think the next shot is going to go in,
so you just shoot it with confidence. You just totally relax out
"We brought the game back to a point and sometimes when things
get going your way, they start to get going against you," Tech
coach Bob Knight said. "It's really difficult to get it going back
Early on, the Sooners were poised to run away with the game.
Everett scored eight points and Johnson hit two 3-pointers as
Oklahoma capitalized on Tech turnovers on four straight possessions
for a 16-2 lead.
Griffin added back-to-back baskets to start another Oklahoma
run, and Longar Longar banked in a hook shot from the right block
to give the Sooners a 27-5 advantage.
The Red Raiders trailed 32-12 after shooting 5-for-21 (24
percent) in the first half, but were able to close in as the
Sooners went on a scoring shortage of their own.
Jackson hit a 3-pointer to start Tech's comeback and he and Zeno
had five points apiece as the Raiders closed to within two.
Tech was 11-for-20 (55 percent) in the second half.
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