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Updated: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 2:00 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(25) Oklahoma 77, (11) Connecticut, 65

NORMAN, Oklahoma (Ticker) -- Taj Gray controlled the inside and Lawrence McKenzie took care of the outside as Oklahoma celebrated its return to the Top 25 by taking out a little revenge on defending champion Connecticut.

Gray had 23 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks and McKenzie scored 15 of his 18 points on 3-pointers as the Sooners led wire-to-wire in a 77-65 victory over the 11th-ranked Huskies.

"It was a great game for us, but the players and coaches know that we have not arrived yet," Oklahoma coach Kelvin sampson said. "We expected to win this game and we don't see it as an upset."

Hours prior to the tip, Oklahoma was voted as the 25th-ranked team in the nation. The Sooners wasted little time making amends for last season's 86-59 thumping at Storrs and posted their sixth straight win and third win in four years against the defending champions.

The Sooners were last ranked in the Top 25 in February 2004.

"We've set a standard at OU," Sampson said. "We realize that last year was our rebuilding year and that there was nothing wrong with the NIT. Great programs always come back and we're on our way."

Gray, who shot 9-of-17 overall, scored 11 points as Oklahoma pulled out to a 42-34 halftime lead. McKenzie, was 4-of-4 in the half - all from the arc.

The Sooners (12-2) held the Huskies to 35 percent (25-of-71) shooting and limited leading scorer Josh Boone to two points on 1-of-4 from the field. Oklahoma shot 52 percent (31-of-60) after connecting on just 27 percent in last season's loss.

Gray posted his third straight double-double and sixth in his last eight games.

"It was not just me, it was the whole team tonight," Gray said. "Everyone on this team stepped up their game and everyone helped each other out. The biggest thing was that everyone was playing hard and competing and we were having fun doing it."

In the second half, every time UConn (9-3) made a run, Oklahoma had an answer. After a layup by Denham Brown cut the deficit to 51-48 with 12:42 left, Dre Lavender knocked down a 3-pointer and Gray hit a couple of short jumpers to push the lead to 58-50.

When the Huskies closed to to 61-57 with 8:17 left, McKenzie hit a free throw and a jumper to rebuild the margin push to 64-57.

In the second half, every time UConn made a run, Oklahoma had an answer. After a layup by Denham Brown cut the lead to 51-48 with 12:42 left, Dre Lavender knocked down a 3-pointer and Gray hit a couple of short jumpers to push the lead to 58-50.

When the Huskies cut the deficit to 61-57 with 8:17 left, McKenzie hit a free throw and a jumper to push the lead to 64-57. The sophomore matched his career high from the arc and is 18-of-36 in his last five games.

"I was just feeling it from behind the line tonight," McKenzie said. "The whole season I've been shooting well and I have been practicing my shot a lot. Tonight was just one of those nights."

Despite the poor shooting, Connecticut, which leads the country in rebound margin (17.6), stayed in the game by grabbing 22 offensive rebounds.

Terrell Everett had 10 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for Oklahoma.

Marcus Williams had 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds and Charlie Villanueva had 13 and 14 boards for Connecticut, which has lost two of its last three games.

"Marcus Williams showed great courage playing hurt (injured his back in first half) in tonight's game and I couldn't be prouder of him," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "I couldn't be prouder of Charlie Villanueva because I felt he was a man by himself down low tonight. Charlie got very little help on the defensive glass. I thought Marcus and Charlie were the only ones that played with the poise that I like to see."


© 2005 STATS, Inc
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