BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP)—David Godbold knows there’s not much fun in making a quick trip to the NCAA tournament.
The senior guard helped make sure Oklahoma stuck around awhile.
Godbold scored 25 points and helped the Sooners survive a late rally for a 72-64 first-round win over Saint Joseph’s on Friday night, hardly looking like a part-time starter.
Besides all the points, he supplied a voice of experience for his teammates who hadn’t been to the tournament.
“It’s really boring when you get home after you lose,” said Godbold, who scored the Sooners’ first 11 points of the second half.
Oklahoma (23-11), which had a 25-year postseason streak end last season, celebrated its return with a game that was anything but boring. It advanced to a second-round matchup against third-seeded Louisville, which beat Boise State 79-61 Friday night.
Godbold, who was averaging just 6.9 points a game, buried a trio of 3-pointers in the first 3 minutes of the second half against the Hawks to push Oklahoma ahead by 19 points. His third punctuated a 25-6 run that began with a tie game late in the first half, forcing Saint Joseph’s (21-13) to call a timeout. Godbold calmly headed toward the bench while teammates surged toward him.
“He definitely didn’t want it to be his last game,” teammate Austin Johnson said. “When I see Dave out there, I have faith in Dave. I know he’s going to make his shot.”
After all, Godbold did hit a 28-footer with 1.4 seconds left to beat Texas Tech on Feb. 16. Not the mark of someone whose confidence would sag after starting only 17 games as a senior.
The Hawks, playing in their first NCAA tournament game since advancing to the regional final as a No. 1 seed four years ago, scored 10 straight points and twice pulled to within four points. It wasn’t quite enough to overcome Oklahoma’s dominant run.
“They just weren’t missing during that 10- or 15-minute stretch,” Saint Joseph’s Pat Calathes said.
Ahmad Nivins’ putback for the Hawks made it 65-61 with 3:29 to play. Quiet most of the game, Oklahoma’s star freshman Blake Griffin scored back-to-back baskets inside to double the lead with just over 2 minutes left.
The Hawks managed just three free throws after that.
“We’ve been in a hole before and we’ve fought our way back,” said Rob Ferguson, who led Saint Joseph’s with 21 points. “We’ve won games like that before. We never once felt like we were out of it. We just kept fighting and fighting.”
Godbold had 18 second-half points and made five of eight 3-pointers. He also defended Calathes, who was held to six points.
“When I’d get by him, they had two guys standing there,” said Calathes, who came in averaging 18 points but made just two of 11 shots in his final college game. “I wasn’t getting any open shots. It was all the guards tonight, it wasn’t just me.”
Longar Longar had 14 points for the Sooners, who shot 57 percent. Griffin finished with 12 on 6-of-7 shooting but grabbed a modest four rebounds, six fewer than his average.
Johnson added 10 points and five assists.
Nivins had 14 points and Darrin Govens 12 for Saint Joseph’s.
Guard Tasheed Carr, the only Saint Joseph’s regular with NCAA tournament experience, fouled out with 5:25 left. He played in the tournament as a freshman at Iowa State.
The Sooners were able to brush off a 28-point humbling by Texas in the Big 12 tournament along with every Hawks comeback attempt. And Saint Joseph’s couldn’t stop Godbold.
“The beauty of this tournament is a guy getting 25 points who comes in averaging (seven),” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. “Those things happen.”
Oklahoma has shown up well in tourney time, making the Final Four in 2002 and falling one game short the following season. No other Division I team has advanced to the postseason in 26 of the past 27 years.
Second-year coach Jeff Capel asked his veterans to share their NCAA experiences “good and bad” with younger players like Griffin.
But, he added, “I don’t really think we had to tell our guys a lot. They understand the magnitude of this tournament.”
Saint Joseph’s had polished its NCAA resume with two wins over Xavier, a No. 3 West seed, in a nine-day span at season’s end to earn an at-large bid.