M'Baye keys OU to third place in Old Spice

Forward Amath M'Baye put the Sooners on his back with a game-high 19 points, and they rode him to a 77-70 Sunday afternoon victory over Big 12 foe West Virginia in the Old Spice Classic third place game at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

In 32 minutes, the Wyoming transfer poured in 5-of-6 field goals and hit 9-of-13 free throws while pacing the Sooner offense.

"I felt amazing, and it's even better bouncing back from a couple of games where I felt I didn't do my job," M'Baye said. "My teammates did an amazing job keeping me in the game and helping me keep my head up. My coaches did a great job of telling me to stay the course and keep working. Everybody helped me out a lot and it's really a team effort."

Freshman guard Je'lon Hornbeak added 14 on his 5-for-9 shooting, but it was veteran senior guard Sam Grooms that kept the Sooners in order and orchestrated the offense when things got tight down the stretch.

In 24 game minutes off the bench, Grooms dished four assists to no turnovers.

After falling behind 5-0 early, the Sooners stormed back and took their first lead at the 11:49 mark of the first half when forward Romero Osby converted a layup to make it 15-14.

They led for the next 23 minutes and three seconds before West Virginia finally tied it up on guard Juwan Staten's lay in with 8:46 remaining.

"It's a terrific ball club, and Bob [Huggins] does such a good job," said OU head coach Lon Kruger. "The game today could have gone either way and I imagine the next two will be similar in terms of being very hard-fought and very tough."

The Mountaineers, who made hay out of OU's foul trouble throughout the contest--three Sooners finished with four fouls and four others had three as part of their 27 total--finally took the lead on guard Gary Browne's free throws with 6:32 to go.

But their 24-for-34 mark at the charity stripe wasn't quite enough, as the Sooners used a 7-0 spurt from that point to take command in crunch time.

M'Baye and senior guard Steven Pledger drained 6-of-6 free throws inside the final two minutes to put it away.

In moving to 2-1 on the tournament, OU finished a much better 47.4 percent from the field to West Virginia's 36.2 percent, but the Mountaineers' ability to nearly make as many free throws (24) as the Sooners shot (25) kept them in it.

"It was a great weekend for us," Kruger said. "It was a couple of good wins and you always like that, but even more importantly I thought we learned a lot, especially from the first two ball games. We played clearly our best today against a very good West Virginia ball club so we'll take a lot from this and recognize what we've got to continue to work on and hopefully just keep getting better."

While OU had a pair of scorers in double figures, West Virginia had three, with Staten leading the way with his 15 and Browne and forward Deniz Kilicli each dumping in 13.

The Sooners (4-1) will now head to Oral Roberts for a 7 p.m. CT Wednesday contest that will conclude a five game road trip, while the Mountaineers return home to play Virginia Military Institute the same day.

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