BIRMINGHAM, AL -- The Oklahoma Sooners celebrated their return to the postseason with a gutsy win, thanks to an improbable hero.
David Godbold scored a career-high 25 points, including the Sooners' first 11 of the second half, and they survived a late rally for a 72-64 win over Saint Joseph's on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Godbold and the Sooners (23-11), who had a 25-year postseason streak end last season, built a 19-point lead and watched most of it dissipate against a Hawks team eager to prove it belonged.
Godbold, who was averaging just 6.9 points a game, buried a trio of 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the second half 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.
The Hawks, playing in their first NCAA tournament game since advancing to the region final as a No. 1 seed four years ago, scored 10 consecutive points and twice pulled to within four points.
Garrett Williamson's putback for the Hawks made it 65-61 with 3:31 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 two minutes left.
The Hawks managed just four free throws after that.
Godbold, a part-time starter, had 18 second-half points and made five of eight 3-pointers. He also defended Saint Joseph's leading scorer, Pat Calathes, who was held to six points, 12 below his average.
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.
Austin Johnson added 10 points and five assists.
Rob Ferguson helped keep Saint Joseph's in the game with 21 points, making nine of 12 shots and half his team's six 3-pointers. Ahmad Nivins had 14 points and Darrin Govens 12. Calathes made just two of 11 shots and had few open looks at the basket in his final college game.
Guard Tasheed Carr, the only Saint Joseph's regular with NCAA 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.
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.
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.