for this game

Huge first half carries Arkansas to upset of Oklahoma

Dec 31, 2008 - 6:55 AM FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas (Ticker) -- Michael Washington showed the nation that he can be an impact forward as well.

Washington scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half as Arkansas started fast and held on for a 96-88 upset of fourth-ranked Oklahoma on Tuesday.

Stefan Welsh had 19 points and freshman Rotnei Clarke added 15 as the Razorbacks (10-1) finished with six players in double figures.

"I feel very fortunate and humbled to play this game and be a Razorback," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "This was an awesome environment tonight. Oklahoma is an unbelievable team. To compete with them, we needed performances from guys we haven't seen this season and tonight we did.

"This is only one game, and it goes away at midnight, but today we're very happy."

The junior Washington also grabbed 11 rebounds as he got the better of the Sooners' Blake Griffin, a top candidate for the national Player of the Year award.

Freshman Willie Warren netted a season-high 35 points before fouling out for the Sooners (12-1), who saw a five-game winning streak over the Razorbacks come to an end.

"I want to congratulate Arkansas," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "They were terrific and played hard. Their crowd was fantastic and they had a great start. They could get anything they wanted from us tonight."

Oklahoma never led in absorbing its first loss of the season as Arkansas scored seven of the first 10 points in the contest and took a 25-8 advantage following a dunk by Washington with 13:15 remaining.

Washington went 7-of-8 from the field and pulled down eight boards in the opening 20 minutes, lifting the Razorbacks to a 53-38 cushion at the break.

Griffin was stymied by two fouls in the first half, scoring just six points on 2-of-6 shooting for the Sooners.

"We know how good Blake Griffin is and we did a good job on him tonight," Pelphrey said. "Across the board we got some great play."

Arkansas continued to roll after the break, building up a 72-47 lead after Clarke's 3-pointer with 11:52 to play capped a 12-1 run.

Yet, Oklahoma made a big push, going on a 16-0 run to close within 72-63 with 9:08 to play. Tony Crocker hit four of his six 3-pointers during the burst - including three consecutive to begin the spurt.

Crocker finished with 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the arc.

The Sooners continued to slice their deficit, closing it to 81-77 on a 3-pointer by Warren with 4:59 remaining. Washington answered back with a dunk on the other end, but the Sooners still had a chance to move closer.

Oklahoma was within 86-81 when Arkansas freshman Courtney Fortson missed a jumper with 2:17 to play. Taylor Griffin pulled down the defensive rebound and got the ball to Austin Johnson, who tried to connect with a streaking Blake Griffin on a long pass for a quick score.

Yet, Michael Sanchez broke it up, leading to a steal for the Razorbacks, who also hustled for an offensive rebound on their next possession after Fortson missed a 3-pointer.

After resetting the offense, Washington converted a reverse layup, making it 88-81 with 1:33 remaining.

Washington finished 10-of-12 from the field and Welsh and Clarke both hit three 3-pointers for Arkansas, which shot 52 percent (30-of-58) from the field in scoring the most points against Oklahoma since Washington posted a 96-91 victory on November 26, 2004.

Fortson also had a big effort, ending up with 12 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

"He is the straw that stirs the drink," Pelphrey said. "He makes everyone's life better. He has a great attitude and he's very coachable."

"Fortson was magnificent," Capel said. "It speaks volumes for a freshman. He was tremendous."

Blake Griffin fouled out with 55 seconds left, ending an attempt of a comeback by Oklahoma. The sophomore finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds.

With Blake Griffin held in check, Warren did his best to carry the team, shooting 12-of-22 from the field and 7-of-11 on 3-pointers.

Scoring 20 points in the first half, Warren began the game 6-of-6 from the field while his teammates were a combined 1-of-15.

"Everything was about the defense for us tonight," Capel said. "We shot too many threes and at times I thought we settled for threes. Blake anticipated getting double-teamed. We've seen all kinds of defenses on him."

The Sooners will get a chance to bounce back with games against Coppin State and Maryland-Eastern Shore before opening up in the Big 12 Conference at Kansas State on January 10.