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Utah Utes basketball: Balanced No. 5 Sooners cruise past Utes

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Utah guard Lawrence Borha, right, drives to the hoop past<BR>   Oklahoma's Austin Johnson, left, in the Utes' defeat on Saturday.

Utah guard Lawrence Borha, right, drives to the hoop past
Oklahoma’s Austin Johnson, left, in the Utes’ defeat on Saturday.

Alonzo Adams, Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. — Utah basketball coach Jim Boylen didn't hesitate.

"We win," he said when asked if someone told him before Saturday's game at No. 5 Oklahoma that the Utes would keep national player of the year candidate Blake Griffin from making a single shot from the field.

Unfortunately for Utah, it didn't turn out that way.

The Sooners countered with a balanced attack to hand the Utes a 70-52 setback at the Lloyd Nobel Center.

"I'm proud of my team, the way we competed. I thought we were physical. I thought we followed the game plan to a 'T,"' Boylen said. "Our game plan was to go at Blake Griffin and get him in foul trouble. I thought we could do that with our size. Then our plan was to make him work for everything he got at the other end and make somebody else beat us."

And Oklahoma's balance, he added, wound up paying off.

All five of the Sooners' starters scored in double-figures. Austin Johnson finished with a game-high 14 points, while Griffin wound up with a double-double of 11 points — all from the free-throw line — and 11 rebounds.

"I thought he had great poise when he realized it wasn't his night. He looked for other people," Boylen said of Griffin, who attempted just three shots from the field. "He made a couple of good passes. That's what good players do. They do enough to help you win."

Shooting woes and turnovers prevented Utah from capitalizing on a favorable situation early in the game. Griffin went to the bench for a long stretch after picking up his second foul less than four minutes into the game.

"We just didn't give ourselves a chance in those first four or five minutes to really go at them because we turned it over," Boylen said.

Seven turnovers in the first 10 minutes were accompanied by woeful shooting. The Utes missed 10 of their first 11 shots in the game. The drought proved costly.

Oklahoma broke from a 4-4 tie with a 12-0 run to take the lead for good.

"We were missing some easy shots, and that's pretty much it," said Utah center Luke Nevill.

The Utes drew no closer than three points over the balance of the half and trailed 30-21 at the break. They never reduced the deficit below seven in the second half.

Oklahoma pulled away down the stretch by holding Utah without a field goal for the final 5:43. After cutting the gap to 58-50, the Utes managed just two free throws in the game-ending span.

"The game was there to be had," said Boylen, who noted that his team missed at least 14 layups in the game.

Utah shot just 23.1 percent in the pivotal first half. Oklahoma wasn't much better, though, hitting at a 31.8 percent clip. By game's end, both teams remained below 40 percent from the field.

The Sooners, however, made up for some of their deficiencies by connecting on 26-of-30 free throws — including 11-of-14 by Griffin, who entered the game as a 58 percent shooter. The Utes were 13-of-17 from the line.

"If you are going to have this team beat you and they beat you from the line, I think you've got to live with that," Boylen said. "This is a good basketball team that we played."

Oklahoma's 18-point victory was the most-lopsided loss Utah has suffered under Boylen, who is in his second season at the helm.

The Sooners are off to their first 10-0 start since 2003-04.

"I'm really proud if this win. We beat a good team on a night when our best player played with foul trouble and didn't have a field goal for the game," said Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel.

"We still found a way to win. I thought the one thing that was pretty constant for us was our defense. I thought we did a good job defending them."

The Utes (5-4) have now lost three straight games. They'll host Weber State on Saturday.

E-mail: dirk@desnews.com