- Associated Press - Friday, November 25, 2016

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - With his Oklahoma Sooners looking listless and trailing upstart Abilene Christian at halftime on Friday, coach Lon Kruger switched two of his starters for the second half, looking for some sort of spark.

Rashard Odomes, one of the benched starters, received the message. Once he exited the bench, he scored seven of his 13 points during a three-minute span midway through the second half, helping Oklahoma turn a two-point lead into a nine-point advantage - a run that proved decisive in a 72-64 win.

Jordan Woodard scored 16 points for Oklahoma (4-1), which had to rally from an early 10-point deficit. Oklahoma won for the 58th time in its last 60 nonconference home games, but the Sooners - a Final Four team a season ago, albeit with only two returning starters - struggled mightily against Abilene Christian (2-2), a Southland Conference program in its final year of transition from NCAA Division II into Division I.

“Abilene Christian was much the aggressor in the first half,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “We came back with a little bit better energy in the second half, but not (with) the number of good possessions that we need to have in a ball game. There’s a lot to learn from that one. Credit to Abilene Christian for how well they played and how hard they played. Hopefully it got our attention a little bit.”

The Sooners overcame poor shooting from the field (36.4 percent) and the free-throw line (63 percent) and the smaller Wildcats outrebounded Oklahoma 42-40.

The Wildcats were up 30-26 at halftime and were tied with Oklahoma as late as the 13-minute mark. But their top player, Jaylen Franklin, left the game with an apparent knee injury with 14:51 left after scoring 11 points and didn’t return. The Wildcats proved unable to keep up with Oklahoma down the stretch in his absence.

Abilene Christian’s propensity for fouling proved to be its undoing. The Wildcats committed 32 fouls and Oklahoma ended up shooting 46 free throws, making 29, while Abilene Christian went 9 of 19 from the line. The Wildcats outscored Oklahoma 55-43 from the field despite committing 22 turnovers.

“When you go through transition, you play a bunch of these games,” Abilene Christian coach Joe Golding said. “Obviously, we’re trying to turn the program where we can come in here and compete in these games. If we keep competing, we’ll eventually get one.”

Abilene Christian wasn’t expected to offer much resistance against the Sooners. Abilene Christian was coming off a home loss to Charleston Southern and the Wildcats’ win in their most recent road game, at New Hampshire on Nov. 17, had ended their 20-game nonconference road losing streak that dated to November 2011.

Even so, the Wildcats overcame 16 fouls to lead at halftime, having trailed for all of 23 seconds to that point. They used a 7-1 run to build a 15-5 lead on a layup by Jaren Lewis at the 12:35 mark. Consecutive baskets by Franklin in the final 73 seconds of the half gave Abilene Christian its four-point halftime lead.

A 3-pointer by Jovan Crnik gave the Wildcats their last lead at 33-32 with 18:28 left. Woodard answered with a 3-pointer for Oklahoma and with the score tied 39-39, he threw an inbound pass off the back of Abilene Christian’s Hayden Howell, grabbed the carom and laid the ball in the basket while being fouled. He hit the free throw with 12:46 left and the Sooners led the rest of the way.

Odomes had two baskets and went 3 for 5 from the line during his second-half flurry and Darrion Strong-Moore’s 3-pointer put the Sooners up 54-45 with 7:53 left. With Abilene Christian within 64-59, Odomes drove the lane and dunked to start an 8-0 run that sealed the win for Oklahoma.

“We’ve just got to get back in the lab, back in the gym, and get some reps in in practice and get things going again,” Woodard said.

Lewis finished with 12 rebounds and eight points for Abilene Christian, while Khadeem Lattin had nine points and nine rebounds for Oklahoma.

BIG PICTURE:

Abilene Christian: It can only get easier schedule-wise for the Wildcats, as Oklahoma was the only major-conference foe on their schedule. The rest of Abilene Christian’s nonconference slate will be against teams with which the Wildcats should be competitive, with one tough test at New Mexico next week.

Oklahoma: After taking third in the Tire Pros Invitational in Orlando, the Sooners showed they still have plenty of kinks to work out before facing tougher opponents like Wisconsin, Wichita State and Memphis.

TIP-INS:

Woodard, a senior point guard, jumped two spots to No. 25 on the Sooners’ career scoring list with his 16-point outing. Woodard, who now has 1,236 career points, passed former NBA player Garfield Heard and David Little. . Oklahoma is 3-0 all-time against Abilene Christian, having won by 24 points in December 1969 and 49 points in December 1982, a game in which Wayman Tisdale scored 51 points on a still-standing school-record 22 field goals.

QUOTABLE:

“They had a big tournament trip . and they come back here and it’s tough to motivate them. We probably don’t motivate them like some teams do. I’m sure there was some waking up on (their part). But they woke up. They’ve got a good team. They’re going to be really good down the road. You can tell the pieces are there for them.” - Golding on the Sooners’ performance against Abilene Christian.

UP NEXT:

Abilene Christian: Returns home for a game against Division III Howard Payne (Texas) on Sunday before a Wednesday road trip to another marquee foe, New Mexico.

Oklahoma: Hosts Northern Colorado on Tuesday to prep for what figures to be a tough nonconference road game at Wisconsin on Dec. 3.

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