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Updated: Thursday, February 27, 2003 12:41 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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Missouri 67, (3) Oklahoma 52
OKLAHOMA SOONERS
Oklahoma Sooners
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MISSOURI TIGERS
Missouri Tigers
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COLUMBIA, Missouri (Ticker) -- Ricky Clemons' unexpected place in the starting lineup helped give Missouri a huge emotional lift.

Clemons played despite a hand injury and Arthur Johnson collected 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Tigers snapped a nine-game skid against third-ranked Oklahoma with a 67-52 Big 12 Conference triumph.

Missouri (17-7, 8-5 Big 12) lost twice to Oklahoma last season, including an 81-75 defeat in the West Region final of the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers were supposed to be without Clemons, who fractured his thumb on his his non-shooting left hand.

"Yeah, I knew he'd play," Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said.

"I don't think there was ever a doubt in his mind that he wanted to go, just a question of whether he was going to have a splint or a tape," Missouri coach Quin Snyder said.

But Clemons elected to play with the hand wrapped and drilled three 3-pointers in the first half, sparking the Tigers to a 30-22 halftime cushion. Johnson scored Missouri's first six points of the second half and threw in a jump hook for a 36-24 advantage with just under 17 minutes left.

Oklahoma (19-5, 10-3) responded with 13 straight points for a 37-36 lead on Hollis Price's 3-pointer with over 10:37 left.

"We got it up to 37-36 and we were lucky it was there," Sampson said. "We didn't play well enough to win tonight."

Rickey Paulding answered with a pair of free throws and two 3-pointers in a 10-3 surge that opened a 46-39 edge. Missouri's Travon Bryant finished off the Sooners by nailing a 3-pointer before emphatically dunking on 6-11 center Jabahri Brown for a 55-43 cushion with 4:45 left.

"I think we wanted to execute our offense," Paulding said. "We could kind of sense them coming back, and we just made big shots."

Bryant and Paulding each finished with 14 points as the Tigers improved to 14-0 at home. Clemons netted 13 points and did not commit a turnover as Missouri had a season-low five for the game.

"Just taking care of the basketball," Snyder said. "There was a stretch where we took bad shots, which are like turnovers, but we corrected it. Our team's getting a little bit better."

The Sooners fell into a tie for second place in the Big 12 with Texas, one game behind first-place Kansas.

Oklahoma shot 28 percent (7-of-28) in the first half and finished at a season-low 27 percent (15-of-55). Hollis Price was the only Sooner in double figures with 16 points.

"What was disappointing to me was Missouri played like this game was more important to them than it was to us," Sampson said. "I don't have any explanation for this game."

"Tonight is a letdown that shouldn't have happened," Price added.

Price, Ebi Ere and Quannas White combined to make just 3-of-14 shots in the first half and Ere and White combined to make 3-of-23 shots. Oklahoma continued to rely on its misfiring perimeter attack rather than feed freshman forward Kevin Bookout, who scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting.

Meanwhile, Missouri pounded the ball inside to Johnson, who scored 14 points in the second half and notched his Big 12-leading 15th double-double. The Tigers also converted all 12 foul shots, including a 6-of-6 showing by Johnson.

Missouri's last victory over Oklahoma was an 89-80 triumph in the 1997 Big 12 tournament semifinals.


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