In a three-way tie for fifth place in the Big 12, Oklahoma (15-11 overall, 6-7 league) tries to snap a three-game losing streak when it hosts Texas (20-7, 10-3) on Saturday at 3 p.m. CST. The Sooners are coming off a tough-to-swallow 72-68 loss at Missouri on Tuesday after leading by one with two minutes left. Texas, just a game out of first place in the conference race, has won four in a row and is coming off a one-sided 80-51 home win over Texas Tech on Tuesday.
Saturday’s contest will air on the Sooner Radio Network (flagship KOKC-AM 1520 in Oklahoma City) with Bob Barry Sr. and Mike Houck announcing. It will be televised nationally on ESPNU and regionally on ESPN Plus (KOCB 34/Cox 11 in OKC; KJRH 2/Cox 9 in Tulsa) with Bob Carpenter and Paul Splittorff calling the action. The game will also be available on ESPN Full Court.
Date: Saturday, Feb. 24
Tip: 3:01 p.m. CST
TV: ESPN Plus (KOCB 34/Cox 11 in OKC; KJRH 2/Cox 9 in Tulsa), ESPNU, ESPN Full Court
Radio: Sooner Radio Network (Flagship KOKC 1520 AM in OKC); Yahoo! Broadcast (subscription)
Series: OU leads 45-23
Upper-level reserved seats are available for $30 (north and south) and $45 (east and west) at the OU Athletics Ticket Office this week (800-456-4668) and here at SoonerSports.com. Lloyd Noble Center’s north and east ticket windows will open Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
As part of OU’s 100th-year-of-basketball celebration, former guard Brent Price (1991-92) and former forward Ryan Minor (1993-96) will be recognized during the game. They will sign autographs on the upper concourse beginning at 2:15 p.m.
BIG 12 MEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP TICKETS AVAILABLE
A limited supply of all-session tickets for the Phillips 66 Men’s Basketball Championship (March 8-11 inside Oklahoma City's Ford Center) are now on sale to the public. Tickets are $240 and include admission to all six sessions of the championship. Tickets may be ordered through the OU Athletics Ticket Office by calling (800) 456-4668.
Oklahoma owns a 45-23 (.662) series lead versus Texas and is 21-7 (.750) in Norman.
OU is allowing 58.2 points per contest on the year to rank in the top 15 nationally. The last time OU gave up fewer than 58.2 points per game for a season was in 1959-60.
The Sooners are shooting .803 from the free throw line over their last eight Big 12 outings (106-for-132).
Nate Carter averaged 4.4 points and 2.3 rebounds prior to Big 12 play, but is averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds over the team’s 13 conference outings.
OU is 6-7 in Big 12 games but ranks fourth in conference play with its +3.8 scoring margin.
The Sooners have been outrebounded just four times in the last 22 games and just six times all season.
In its 15 wins, OU is holding foes to a .345 field goal mark. Twelve of those 15 opponents have failed to shoot .400.
Thirteen of OU’s 15 wins have been by double digits. Its average victory margin is 24.1 points.
TEXAS PROJECTED STARTERS
F 5 Damion James (6-7, 227, Fr., 7.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
F 35 Kevin Durant (6-9, 225, Fr., 24.4 ppg, 11.4 rpg)
G 3 A.J. Abrams (5-10, 155, So., 15.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
G 14 D.J. Augustin (5-11, 175, Fr., 14.3 ppg, 6.7 apg)
G 24 Justin Mason (6-2, 185, Fr., 9.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
OKLAHOMA PROJECTED STARTERS
F 24 Nate Carter (6-6, 220, Sr., 11.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
C 30 Longar Longar (6-11, 228, Jr., 11.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg)
G 2 Michael Neal (6-3, 198, Sr., 10.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
G 3 Bobby Maze (6-3, 175, Fr., 5.6 ppg, 2.2 apg)
G 15 David Godbold (6-5, 215, Jr., 7.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
After winning four straight games, the Sooners have lost three consecutive contests to fall to 6-7 in Big 12 play. OU’s most recent defeat was a deflating 72-68 setback in which it led by one with two minutes remaining. Oklahoma missed a pair of one-and-one free throw front ends in the final 80 seconds while Keon Lawrence’s fall-away jumper as the shot clock expired with 47 seconds left put the Tigers ahead for good. The loss dropped OU to a three-way tie for fifth place in the Big 12 with Missouri and Texas Tech.
OU’s leading scorer (11.6 ppg) and rebounder (7.5 rpg) on the season, Longar Longar was held to single-digits in points Tuesday for the second straight game after registering double-doubles in three of the previous four outings (he averaged 16.0 points and 11.3 rebounds over those four games). He had seven points and six boards at Missouri before fouling out. The junior center, who is shooting .580 from the field on the year, has been especially effective in the team’s 15 wins this year, averaging 14.7 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting .635 from the floor. He missed OU’s first game against Texas this year due to a Big 12 suspension.
Senior guard Michael Neal is coming off a team-high 18-point performance against Missouri in which he made four 3-pointers. It was the first time in 10 games he led the Sooners in scoring. Neal, last year’s Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, averages 10.4 points and 2.7 rebounds a contest while shooting .308 from beyond the arc. In Big 12 games, he ranks 10th in the league in 3-point percentage (.373) and fifth in 3-point makes per game (2.4).
Sophomore guard Tony Crocker averaged 11.1 points and 4.4 rebounds through OU’s first 14 games but is averaging 5.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in 12 games since. A 23-game starter, he has been held to single digits in points in 11 of the last 12 contests. Another guard, sophomore Austin Johnson went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc at Missouri and averages 7.5 points and a team-high 3.2 assists on the year. He is shooting .356 from 3-point range and .920 (23-for-25) from the free throw line. Johnson also ranks fourth in the Big 12 with his 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio. David Godbold, a junior guard who also averages 7.5 points, ranks second behind Neal with his 39 treys this season. He has eight games with at least three makes on the year. Godbold is averaging 15.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.5 steals over the last two games. Included was a career-high 20-point game against Texas A&M last Saturday in which he was 5-for-7 from 3-point range.
Freshman guard Bobby Maze has provided a spark the last several games. Maze recorded 12 points, four rebounds and three assists at Baylor Feb. 10 and followed with 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting at Iowa State. He earned his first career start Tuesday at Missouri and had seven points, a career-high five assists and two steals. Maze is averaging 5.6 points and 2.2 assists while shooting .494 from the field this year in 17 minutes a game.
Nine of Oklahoma’s final 10 field goals were 3-pointers. OU’s 11 treys on the game matched a season high (Norfolk State in opening game).
OU led by as many as seven in the first half (20-13) before Missouri went on a 22-4 run to go up 35-24 (the Sooners trailed 35-28 at half).
Taylor Griffin pulled down eight rebounds, his most since grabbing 10 in the league opener at Texas Tech.
Nineteen of OU’s 37 rebounds were offensive, but the Sooners only managed 12 second-chance points.
Missouri’s win was its fifth straight against OU in regular season play.
Texas,14-1 at home and 4-4 in true road games, enters Saturday’s game a winner in its last four outings and in seven of its last nine. It trails Big 12 co-leaders Kansas and Texas A&M by just one game. Its only three league losses came at Oklahoma State (105-103 in triple overtime), at home to Kansas State (73-72) and at Texas A&M (100-82). The Longhorns lead the Big 12 in scoring offense (82.7 ppg) and 3-pointers per game (9.1), and outscore their opponents by 12.0 points a contest to rank third in league (a +9.2 margin in conference games). Texas has held each of its last four opponents to 68 or fewer points (60.0 average).
Freshman Kevin Durant, arguably the nation’s top player, boasts 24.4 scoring and 11.4 rebounding averages to lead the Big 12 (28.3 ppg and 12.7 rpg in conference games). Durant leads the league with 16 double-doubles this year, a school record for freshmen. Sophomore guard A.J. Abrams averages 15.2 points per contest and leads the Big 12 with his 3.5 3-point makes an outing (he is shooting .429 from long range). Freshman point guard D.J. Augustin is averaging 14.3 points and a Big 12-best 6.7 assists per game, and is shooting .481 from beyond the arc. Two more freshmen, guard Justin Mason and forward Damion James average 9.1 and 7.4 points, respectively. James also averages 6.9 rebounds to rank eighth in the Big 12.
Head coach Rick Barnes is 211-83 (.718) in his ninth year at Texas and is 413-217 (.656) in his 20th year overall.
OKLAHOMA-TEXAS SERIES HISTORY
Oklahoma owns a 45-23 all-time record against Texas and is 21-7 in games played in Norman. The Sooners, who are 16-10 against the Longhorns since the formation of the Big 12 Conference (7-3 at home), beat No. 4 Texas last year at Lloyd Noble Center by an 82-72 score. Terrell Everett registered 25 points, seven rebounds and eight assists while Taj Gray had 22 points and eight boards. The Sooners shot .544 from the field and posted a 35-30 rebounding advantage.
EARLIER THIS YEAR VERSUS THE LONGHORNS
With Longar Longar Oklahoma’s leading scorer and rebounder on the season benched by the Big 12 Conference, the Sooners fell 80-69 at No. 25 Texas on Jan. 13. The Longhorns shot .547 from the field (the only .500-or-better performance against OU this year) and became the first team in 11 games to outrebound the Sooners (34-23). Oklahoma committed a season-low eight turnovers and had just one in the second half, but Kevin Durant (28) and A.J. Abrams (20) combined for 48 points to help UT improve to 10-0 at home. Nate Carter scored 18 points and pulled down six rebounds in his first start of the season (in place of Longar). He was 7-for-10 from the field and made all four of his free throw attempts in posting, what was at the time, his most points ever in an OU uniform. Taylor Griffin’s 15 points were one shy of his career high and he also recorded six boards, two assists, two blocks and two steals without a turnover in a career-high 35 minutes of action. Oklahoma, which fell to 16-13 all-time in Austin, outscored Texas 17-1 to end the game.
OU freshman Bobby Maze and Texas freshman Kevin Durant, both from Suitland, Md., were five-year AAU teammates for the PG Jaguars and D.C. Blue Devils. North Carolina freshman point guard Tywon Lawson was also a member of the D.C. Blue Devils.
Texas freshman forward Damion James signed a letter of intent in November 2005 to play for Oklahoma. He was released from his letter of intent last April.
TEXAS STATE CHAMPS
OU has had more than its fair share of success against Big 12 teams from the state of Texas. The Sooners own a 126-47 (.728) all-time record against Baylor (31-5), Texas (45-23), Texas A&M (25-3) and Texas Tech (25-16). Since the inception of the Big 12, OU is 22-0 against Baylor, 16-9 versus Texas, 20-3 against Texas A&M and 16-8 versus Texas Tech for a combined 74-20 (.787) record.
CARTER STEPS UP
In what has to be one of the most remarkable in-season turnarounds in college basketball this year, senior Nate Carter has taken advantage of his increased minutes since the start of Big 12 play. Carter, who averaged 4.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game prior to conference action, is averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 boards in 31 minutes per contest over 13 league outings. He is shooting .510 from the field and .893 from the free throw line (67-for-75) in conference play, and leads the team with his 41 offensive rebounds. Carter had 53 points over OU’s first 12 games but has tallied 232 over the last 14.
MORE ON CARTER
Prior to OU’s game at Texas on Jan. 13, the most points Carter scored in an OU uniform was 16 last year against Oral Roberts. He has surpassed that total in eight of the last 11 league contests.
Carter (16.7 ppg and 7.3 rpg) is one of four players who average at least 16.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in Big 12 play. Texas’ Kevin Durant (28.3 points and 12.7 boards), Oklahoma State’s Mario Boggan (18.6 and 8.7) and Nebraska’s Aleks Maric (16.3 and 7.9) are the others.
Carter leads the Big 12 (all games) in free throw shooting (.867). He has made 56 of his last 58 attempts in league play (.966).
Carter had his school-record string of 37 consecutive makes broken against Longwood Jan. 30. He made 39 straight free throw attempts in conference play before a second-half miss against Texas Tech Feb. 3.
In Big 12 play, Carter ranks second in the league field goal percentage (.510), third in free throw percentage (.893), fourth in offensive rebounding (3.2 per game), sixth in scoring (16.7 ppg) and 10th in rebounding (7.3 rpg).
Over a four-game Big 12 span (Jan. 20 through Feb. 3), Carter averaged 11.0 free throw attempts. In five league games since, he is averaging 2.0 attempts.
After playing limited minutes the last two years behind All-Big 12 big men Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout, junior center Longar Longar is taking advantage of his opportunity this year. The 6-11, 228-pounder averaged 2.9 points in 7.9 minutes a game as a freshman and 2.1 points in 7.2 minutes a contest last year. This season, Longar leads OU with his 11.6 points per game, 7.5 rebounds (ranks seventh in Big 12), 1.4 blocks (ranks seventh) and his .580 field goal mark (would rank second in the league but he is four makes shy of qualifying in the category).
Longar registered his sixth career double-double (all this year) and third in a four-game span when he scored 20 points (all in the second half) and grabbed 12 rebounds at Iowa State Feb. 13. The performance came on the heels of a 12-point, 12-rebound effort at Baylor Feb. 10 and three games after he had 19 points and 14 rebounds in a win over Texas Tech Feb. 3. Longar also turned in a 20-point, career-high 15-rebound game against SMU on Dec. 28 to earn Big 12 Co-Player of the Week honors. Additionally, Longar recorded a 24-point, 14-rebound performance against Chaminade in the third round of the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational Nov. 22, and a 15-point, 11-rebound game against Coppin State on Dec. 9.
Longar, who was born in Sudan and also lived in Egypt before coming to the United States, attended high school in Rochester, Minn., and one year of prep school in Laurinburg, N.C. He already has more than twice as many points this year (278) than he scored over his first two seasons combined (127).
The Sooners’ defense has been suffocating at times this year, as evidenced by opponents’ 58.2 points per game and .396 combined field goal percentage. The last time OU gave up less than 58.2 points per contest for an entire season was in 1959-60 (56.8 ppg) a span of 47 years. The last time Oklahoma opponents shot worse than .396 for a season was in 1960-61 (.377).
No opponent has scored more than 80 points against OU this year and Texas is the only foe to shoot .500 or better from the field (.547 on Jan. 13 in Austin). The Sooners have held 12 of their 25 opponents under .400 shooting.
FINE AT THE LINE
After shooting .670 from the free throw line in non-conference games, the Sooners are shooting .746 from the charity stripe in Big 12 action to rank second in the league. They own a .803 free throw mark (106-for-132) over their last eight league outings.
Oklahoma ranks second in the Big 12 Conference with its +5.8 rebounding margin per game and has been outrebounded just four times over the last 22 contests. The importance of rebounding is illustrated in the fact that OU is 13-4 when it has outboarded its opponents and 1-7 when it hasn’t. In their victories, the Sooners have outrebounded their foes by 10.2 a game.
PROTECTING THE BALL
After averaging 15.8 turnovers a game prior to conference play, the Sooners have done a much better job of taking care of the basketball in their 12 Big 12 games. OU is averaging just 12.3 turnovers per conference outing to rank fourth in the Big 12. The Sooners are 10-1 this year when committing fewer turnovers than their opponents.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WINNING AND LOSING
In its 15 wins this year OU is outrebounding its opponents by 10.2 a game. In its 11 losses it is getting outboarded by 0.1.
OU is shooting .493 from the field in its wins but only .387 in its defeats.
Opponents are shooting just .345 from the field in OU’s wins while they are shooting .469 in OU’s losses.
OU’s assist-to-turnover ratio in its victories is +1.2 (235 assists and 194 turnovers). The ratio in losses is 0.8 (130 and 166).
Longar Longar is averaging 14.7 points and 8.4 rebounds in the Sooners’ wins but just 7.2 points and 6.4 boards in their defeats.
HOME IS WHERE THE “W” IS
Lloyd Noble Center has been overly kind to the Sooners, as they have won 43 of the last 47 games and 98 of the last 107 in the building. Oklahoma finished 14-1 at home last year after also going 14-1 in 2004-05. OU is 410-67 (.860) in LNC since it opened for the 1975-76 campaign. The Sooners have posted home winning streaks of 51 games (1987-90) and 37 games (2001-03). The 37-game streak is a Big 12 Conference record.
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
Oklahoma is holding opponents to 50.7 points a contest (six foes have scored less than 50 points). It is outscoring its opponents 72.9 to 50.7 at Lloyd Noble Center (a margin of 22.1 points a game).
The Sooners are shooting .484 at home while opponents have shot .359.
OU is outboarding visiting foes by a 38.6 to 29.7 count (+8.9).
Longar Longar is averaging 13.6 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting .595 from the field.
Seven of Tony Crocker’s nine double-digit scoring games have come at Lloyd Noble (he also has a nine-point game in the building). He is averaging 10.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists at home while shooting .495 from the field.
Austin Johnson is shooting .458 from 3-point range (22-for-48) and sports a 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Opponents have racked up 226 turnovers (16.1 average) to just 128 assists (9.1 average).
NATION’S LONGEST POSTSEASON STREAK
Oklahoma made its 25th consecutive postseason appearance last year (20 NCAA and five NIT), good for the longest current streak among Division I programs. The last time OU did not compete in the postseason was in 1980-81. The Sooners have competed in the NCAA Tournament 11 times in the last 12 seasons.
NINE STRAIGHT 20-WIN CAMPAIGNS
The Sooners boast a streak of nine straight 20-win seasons dating back to the 1997-98 campaign. OU and Kansas are the only Big 12 schools who have won at least 20 games each of the last nine seasons. Oklahoma State has eight 20-win seasons in the last nine years while Texas is next with seven.
The 2006-07 season marks the 100th year of varsity basketball at Oklahoma. The Sooners began playing the sport during the 1907-08 season under head coach D.C. Hall (it was his lone year as OU’s mentor). Their first game was a 32-12 win over Epworth College on Nov. 26, 1907, at Convention Hall in Oklahoma City. OU posted a 4-3 record that year with a two-game sweep of Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State).
The Sooners now own a 1,444-919 (.611) all-time record and a 410-67 (.860) mark at Lloyd Noble Center. They have participated in 24 NCAA Tournaments, four Final Fours (1939, 1947, 1988 and 2002) and two national title games (1947 and 1988). OU has won or shared 13 conference championships (the most recent was in 2005) and has claimed seven league tournament titles (the most recent was in 2003).