OKLAHOMA CITY(Ticker) -- Freshmen Kevin Bookout and De'Angelo Alexander have Oklahoma looking healthy in the NCAA Tournament.
Bookout scored a career-high 22 points and Alexander also had a big game as the top-seeded Sooners advanced to the "Sweet 16" in the East Region with a 74-65 victory over eighth-seeded California.
Battling a case of strep throat, Bookout made the Golden Bears feel sick, picking an opportune time to come up with the best game of his young career.
The 6-8 Bookout set the tone from the start, scoring 11 points while making all four of his shots from the field in the first half as the Sooners never trailed and opened a 33-24 lead. He continued to have his way down low in the second half and finished 9-of-11 from the field.
"We just hit open shots, and it felt good to get open under the basket," Bookout said. "Any time you get those transition baskets, it really helps the offense."
"The more teams play behind him, the more opportunities he has," Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. "He leads the league in field-goal percentage. We talked about at the half of getting him more touches."
Bookout was one of three players that came into the contest for the Sooners with health questions. Star guard Hollis Price is playing with a partially torn groin and Ebi Ere still has lingering affects of a broken bone in his non-shooting left hand.
Alexander also stepped up with the two seniors slowed as he scored 15 points for the Sooners (26-6), who will meet Louisville or Butler in the next round. Oklahoma advanced to the Final Four last season.
"We didn't want this to be Hollis' (Price) last game," Bookout said. "We'll try to keep it going in Albany and keep the careers going for our seniors. The team has worked hard to get to this point, and we're going to be ready for the Sweet 16."
Brian Wethers netted 27 points to lead California (22-9), which failed in a bid to advance past the second round for the first time since 1997.
Bookout and Alexander came out aggressive from the start. Bookout had a dunk 10 seconds into the contest and Alexander converted a three-point play and drilled a 3-pointer as the Sooners jumped on top.
Another 3-pointer by Alexander pushed the lead to 15-4 less than six minutes into the contest. Meanwhile, the Bears were struggling on offense against the Sooners' tough man-to-man defense.
"I get some jitters before these big games, and I leave them at the hotel," Alexander joked. "Once the ball is tipped, I get a lot better."
One of the players that struggled for the Bears was center Amit Tamir, who missed all five of his shots from the field and finished with one point.
With Bookout and Alexander providing the scoring, Price did not have to be much of a factor offensively. Price took just three shots, making one, and finished with five points, more than 14 below his average.
"I wasn't as aggressive as I was in the past few games, basically because of the movement," Price said. "I wasn't able to move all that well. I tried to do other things and get Kevin the ball inside."
"The whole team had to step it up after Hollis was hurt," Alexander said. "Just to get him (Price) back out there is a boost to our whole team. He's an inspiration, and when he plays, it helps our two freshmen get into the flow of the game."
A layup by Bookout gave the Sooners their biggest lead of the opening half at 29-14. The Bears closed the half with a 10-4 run to cut the deficit to nine.
But the Sooners quickly regained the momentum to start the second half. Bookout scored six points around a 3-pointer by Quannas White, pushing the lead to 42-24 with 17:26 remaining.
"We would like to take away the first two minutes from each half, and we would have been in better shape," California coach Ben Braun said. "OU plays consistent basketball. You cannot play with any lulls against them."
White added 12 points as the Sooners shot 56 percent (15-of-27) in the second half to finish at 51 percent (26-of-51) overall.
Wethers tried to keep the Bears in it. The 6-5 athletic swingman scored 15 of his club's first 27 points in the second half, including eight straight at one point to help the Bears close to 62-51 with 7:52 remaining. He finished 11-of-18 from the field.
Joe Shipp chipped in with 20 points for California, which stayed close in the second half by shooting 59 percent (17-of-29). The Bears shot 52 percent (27-of-52) percent overall, but went just 6-of-12 from the free throw line.
"Their team stepped up and played a great game, especially with Hollis Price somewhat hurt," Shipp said. "They're a great defensive team. They have great help side (defense). They're very physical and follow the ball really well. It was hard to score on them."