McNiel helps Oklahoma boys rally to 99-90 overtime victory

Zach Duncan
Times Record News

Oklahoma’s Michael McNeil was enjoying himself so much at the 10th Oil Bowl Basketball Classic Thursday at D.L. Ligon Coliseum, he didn’t want the night to end.

The 6-4 forward from Edmond North repeatedly made clutch shots in the fourth quarter, turning a Texas blowout into a nip-and-tuck affair.

His reward: a 99-90 overtime victory for Oklahoma and a Most Valuable Player plaque to carry back across the Red River.

“We just kept playing hard and didn’t quit,” said McNeil, moments after scoring a game-high 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. “There were better players on the court (than me), but I had a good game. I had a blast.”

The modest McNeil was the difference, but it was Midwestern State signee Russell Button who left Indians’ fans with a hopeful glimpse of the future.

Making his debut on his soon-to-be home floor, Button had a team-best 22 points and four assists. He converted key fourth-quarter free throws and ran Texas’ offense most of the night.

“I was very impressed with him,” Texas coach Jeff Evans (Amarillo Palo Duro) said. “He’s a very competitive kid, and he’s going to be a good one.”

While the game went back and forth the first three quarters, Texas finally made a move to open the fourth.

It built a 69-52 lead with 4:33 remaining, highlighted by Booker Woodfox’s half-court heave that beat the buzzer to end the third. That prayer of a basket triggered an 18-2 Texas run.

But Oklahoma, which now leads the series 3-1, wasn’t going to let its neighbors to the South take the game that easily.

“If you’re playing anybody that’s any good, you know when you have a run, they’re going to have a run,” Evans said. “I knew that was going to happen.”

Oklahoma slowly whittled the lead down, finally tying it on Chris Rhymes’ 3-point floater with three seconds left. Rhymes finished with 20 points, none bigger than those three.

It then carried the momentum into overtime, outscoring Texas 19-10 during that four-minute span.

McNeil, though, was the reason for the comeback. He scored 10 points in the final three minutes of the fourth and connected on 8-of-14 shots from the field.

“He was our sparkplug,” Oklahoma coach Tommy Griffin said.

That’s exactly what Button, Woodfox and Irving’s Marquez Haynes were for the Texas squad. The trio combined for 55 points and eight assists, penetrating Oklahoma’s defense numerous times for easy baskets.

Haynes, a Boston College signee, also went home with the slam-dunk title.

Justin Taylor, another Edmond North standout, totaled 19 points while OU-bound Taylor Griffin added 13 for the winning side.

Graham’s Lee Berend scored six of his seven points in the first half and also collected six boards. Riley Lambert, formerly from Henrietta, had four points and five boards.

Staff sports writer Zach Duncan can be reached weekdays after 4 p.m. by calling 720-3470 or 1-800-627-1646. Or e-mail him at duncanz(at)timesrecordnews.com.