Dec. 29, 2002

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GAME INFORMATION
Ranked fifth in this week's AP and ESPN/USA Today polls, Oklahoma (6-2) will face UNC Asheville (3-5) on Monday at 7 p.m. CST inside Lloyd Noble Center. The game will air live on the Sooner Basketball Radio Network (flagship KOMA 1520 AM in Oklahoma City) with Bob Barry, Sr. (play-by-play) and Mike Houck (analyst) calling the action. The game will not be televised.

                                       AVERAGES
UNC ASHEVILLE PROJECTED STARTERS       PPG  RPG
F 15 Bryan McCullough (6-6, 180, So.) 10.8  2.8
F 42 Joseph Barber (6-9, 210, So.)     6.5  4.4
C 41 Ben McGonagil (6-11, 250, Sr.)   11.8  6.4
G 10 Andre Smith (6-2, 165, Sr.)      19.9  4.4
G 11 Alex Kragel (6-2, 180, Sr.)       9.9  3.0

OKLAHOMA PROJECTED STARTERS PPG RPG F 34 Kevin Bookout (6-8, 260, Fr.) 8.5 5.9 C 21 Jabahri Brown (6-10, 210, Jr.) 7.5 6.0 G 2 Ebi Ere (6-5, 215, Sr.) 18.5 5.9 G 4 Quannas White (6-1, 190, Sr.) 6.4 3.6 G 10 Hollis Price (6-1, 170, Sr.) 17.4 2.4

STATISTICAL COMPARISON
Category                    Oklahoma     UNCA
Overall Record                 6-2        3-5
Points Per Game               75.1       75.0
Opponent Points Per Game      59.3       84.4
Rebounds Per Game             38.8       36.4
Opponent Rebounds Per Game    29.5       37.9
Field Goal Pct.               .449       .437
Opponent Field Goal Pct.      .419       .473
3-Point Pct.                  .339       .393
Opponent 3-Point Pct.         .383       .364
Free Throw Pct.               .767       .740
Personal Fouls Per Game       17.5       21.0
Assists Per Game              15.1       14.6
Turnovers Per Game            12.5       18.4
Blocked Shots Per Game         2.5        4.0
Steals Per Game                9.5        8.3

OKLAHOMA UPDATE
The Sooners shot just .315 from the field, their worst field goal percentage in 101 games (dating back to a .300 effort against Cincinnati on Dec. 22, 1999), and dropped a 54-45 contest to Mississippi State in the Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans on Saturday. The loss snapped OU's six-game winning streak and was its second defeat to a Southeastern Conference team this year (the Sooners lost to Alabama in the season opener). Oklahoma committed 11 turnovers in the first half and finished with 17, one short of its season high, and attempted just five free throws in the contest. On the bright side, Kelvin Sampson's squad limited Mississippi State to .360 field goal and .231 three-point shooting and outboarded the Bulldogs, 38-36. MSU entered the game averaging 14.4 more boards than its opponents. Hollis Price was the only Sooner to score in double figures and finished with 17 points. OU's starting guard trio of Price, Ebi Ere and Quannas White attempted 45 of the team's 54 shots (83 percent) but made just 13 of them.

After Ere led the Sooners in scoring each of the first five games this year, Price has done it the last three. Price, the Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, is averaging 20.3 points over the last three contests to up his season average to 17.4 per game. The senior has made a team-high 20 three-pointers (2.5 per game) and is shooting .921 from the foul line (35-for-38). Ere leads the team with 18.5 points per contest and ranks second with 5.9 rebounds per game. He was 4-for-16 from the field against Mississippi State to drop his season field goal mark from .520 to .482. Senior point guard Quannas White leads the team with 4.4 assists and 2.0 steals per game and sports a superb 3.9 assist-to-turnover ratio (just 1.1 turnovers per game). White is also averaging 6.4 points per game -- 9.7 over the last three outings.

Freshman Kevin Bookout averages 8.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and ranks near the top of the Big 12 in field goal percentage with a .600 figure. Junior center Jabahri Brown averages 7.5 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds. Brown has blocked a team-high six shots on the season but four of those have come over the past two games.

ABOUT UNC ASHEVILLE
The loser of two consecutive games, UNC Asheville comes to Norman as the owner of a 3-5 record. The Bulldogs have won all three of their home games and are 0-5 on the road. Asheville beat Montreat College (102-73), Western (77-72) and Campbell (99-89 in OT), and lost at Michigan State (66-52), at Minnesota (87-81), at East Tennessee State (87-69), at Connecticut (117-67) and at Holy Cross (84-53). Monday's game will mark the first time for the Bulldogs to play in the state of Oklahoma. They are 0-6 all-time against teams presently in the Big 12 Conference.

Senior guard Andre Smith, the Preseason Big South Player of the Year, leads the team in a wealth of categories, including points per game (19.9), assists per game (4.4), steals per game (2.5), three-point percentage (.519) and minutes per game (30.4). Smith, who nearly logged UNC Asheville's first ever triple-double against Campbell on Dec. 14 (24 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists), also averages 4.4 rebounds per game to rank second on the squad. Senior center Ben McGonagil averages 11.8 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game and is shooting .500 from the floor. Sophomore forward Bryan McCullough averages 10.8 points per outing and is shooting .467 from beyond the arc, while senior guard Alex Kragel scores 9.9 points per game and has made a team-high 15 three-pointers.

Eddie Biedenbach is in his seventh year as UNC Asheville's head coach and owns a 90-89 record there. He is in his 10th year as a collegiate head coach and sports a 119-140 career mark.

UNC ASHEVILLE SERIES HISTORY
Monday's game will mark the first meeting between Oklahoma and UNC Asheville.

MISSISSIPPI STATE LEFTOVERS

  • Saturday's game marked the first time this season that Oklahoma committed more turnovers than its opponent (17-13).
  • Ebi Ere failed to score in double figures for the first time this year (he finished with nine points).
  • With his 17 points, Hollis Price moved past Mookie Blaylock and David Johnson on the OU all-time scoring list. Price now ranks 14th on the chart with 1,348 points.
  • Mississippi State's Timmy Bowers was averaging 17.3 points entering the game but was held to three.
  • Oklahoma saw its 19-game December winning streak come to a halt.
  • OU's four free throw makes and five attempts marked its lowest respective totals since going 4-for-4 at the line against Baylor last Feb. 19.

    BEEFING UP
    Kelvin Sampson said prior to this season that OU's schedule would be the most difficult he's ever played. One glance at the Sooners' late December and early January stretch and it's easy to see why. Oklahoma faced No. 16/17 Mississippi State on Saturday and, following Monday's home game against UNC Asheville, will face No. 15/15 Michigan State in Oklahoma City Jan. 4 and No. 6/6 Connecticut in Norman Jan. 7. The Sooners have already faced No. 1/3 Alabama, and four future Big 12 opponents are now ranked in the AP or ESPN/USA Today top 25.

    A TOP-10 HIT
    The Sooners are ranked fifth in the current AP top-25 poll, making it 18 consecutive weeks that OU has appeared in the poll's top 10 (dating back to Jan. 5 last year). The Sooners were ranked No. 3 in last season's final edition and debuted in the same spot this year.

    ONE-TWO PUNCH
    Senior guards Ebi Ere (19.9) and Hollis Price (17.4) are averaging a combined 35.9 points per game, a figure that ranks toward the top among Big 12 tandems. Texas Tech's Cory Carr (23.1) and Tony Battie (18.8) averaged 41.9 per game in 1996-97 to set the league standard while OU's Nate Erdmann (20.5) and Corey Brewer (17.5) averaged 38.0 combined points per game the same season to rank fourth on the league's all-time chart.

    TERRIFIC TRIO
    OU's starting guard trio of Ebi Ere, Hollis Price and Quannas White undoubtedly forms one of the nation's top backcourts. The threesome has accounted for 56 percent of the team's points, 66 percent of its assists and 50 percent of its steals. The three guards have also made 63 percent of OU's free throws on the year and have taken 58 percent of its foul shots.

    DEFENSE IMPROVES
    In the last three games, Oklahoma has limited Hartford, Coppin State, Georgia State and Mississippi State to respective .313, .364, .383 and .360 field goal marks, dropping the Sooners' field goal percentage defense figure from .480 prior to the Hartford game to .419 now. Also, OU averaged just 1.0 blocked shot per game in its first four contests but is averaging 4.0 over its last four games.

    OU BOARDING SCHOOL
    Since being outrebounded by Alabama (38-32) and UC Irvine (31-29) in their first two games of the year, the Sooners have outboarded their last six opponents by 13.7 caroms per contest. Against Prairie View A&M, OU posted a 50-25 rebounding advantage (including a 27-1 margin in offensive rebounds). On the season, Oklahoma is outrebounding its opponents by a 9.3 margin per game (38.8-29.5).

    PREACHING PROTECTION
    Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson has long stressed protecting the basketball and his OU squads have heeded his words over the years. The Sooners ranked second in the Big 12 last year by averaging just 11.9 turnovers per game. OU led the league in 2000-01 and 1999-00 by averaging just 12.7 and 12.8 miscues per outing, respectively. The Sooners rank near the top of the Big 12 this season with only 12.5 turnovers per contest despite averaging 16.5 over their last two games.

    GILBERT BACK IN THE FOLD
    Sophomore forward Johnnie Gilbert played in the first two games of the year and then sat out the next three due to injury. The left-hander returned to record five points and six rebounds in 19 minutes against Coppin State Dec. 14 and turned in an inspired effort against Georgia State Dec. 21 with a career-high nine points and seven boards in 19 minutes. He registered two points, four rebounds and two blocks Saturday against Mississippi State. Gilbert is 7-for-11 from the field since his return. He is now averaging 4.6 points and 4.0 rebounds over his five games.

    ERE STELLAR AT START
    Guard Ebi Ere has started his senior season with a bang. The 6-5, 215-pounder led the Sooners in scoring in each of the first five games (24, 14, 27, 16 and 33 points) and ranks second in the Big 12 with his 18.5 points per outing. He also averages 5.9 rebounds to rank second on the team. Last year he shot .427 from the field but so far this year he sports a .482 figure. Ere also averages 2.6 assists and 0.9 steals per outing. Against Princeton in the Sooner Invitational championship game, he registered 27 points (two shy of his then-career high), seven rebounds, a career-high six assists, a blocked shot and two steals. Versus Hartford, he set a career high with 33 points and added eight boards, three assists and a steal in 28 minutes. Ere scored in double figures in the first seven games but was held to nine against Mississippi State.

    PRICE-LESS
    One of the best guards to ever wear an Oklahoma uniform, senior Hollis Price is averaging 17.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.9 steals per game this season. He has already passed eight players (Corey Brewer, Bobby Jack, Garfield Heard, David Little, Aaron Curry, Al Beal, Mookie Blaylock and David Johnson) on the school's all-time scoring chart this season. Price now stands 14th on the career list with 1,348 points and needs 13 points to tie Terry Evans for 13th. If he duplicates last year's 577-point performance this season, Price will wind up seventh on the career scoring list. The New Orleans native also ranks third in career free throw percentage (.838), fifth in three-point field goal attempts (455), fifth in three-point field goals (167), sixth in steals (185), seventh in minutes played (3,403), eighth in assists (390) and ninth in steals per game (1.7).

    Price was named Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year by league coaches and media and is also a candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards. Additionally, he picked up preseason All-America honors from Playboy. Price averaged 16.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game last year to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors, as well as third-team All-America recognition from The Sporting News. He concluded the season by earning Big 12 Tournament and NCAA West Regional MVP honors.

    Said OU head coach Kelvin Sampson, "To me, he's our heart and soul. Hollis embodies what we want in a Sooner basketball player. The way he practices, the way he carries himself off the court, the way he performs in the classroom, his effort and his pride are impressive. There are very few things in the future that I dread, but I can honestly tell you that I'm really, really dreading senior night. I'm going to really enjoy every minute I'm with Hollis this year because I don't know when I'll get another one like him."

    THE FUTURE IS NOW
    While preseason publications raved about OU's experienced veterans, fanfare about the team's newcomers paled in comparison. Four freshmen have seen significant minutes in the early going this year. Forward Kevin Bookout is averaging 8.5 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting a team-high .600 from the field in 28.4 minutes per game. He became just the second freshman under ninth-year OU coach Kelvin Sampson to start the first game of a season. Guard De'Angelo Alexander is averaging 5.5 points and 3.9 boards in 17.8 minutes per outing and registered a game-high 25 in the team's second exhibition contest. Center Larry Turner is averaging 1.3 points and 1.5 boards in 9.2 minutes per contest. Redshirt freshman forward Matt Gipson is averaging 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 8.2 minutes per outing. Collectively, the quartet has scored 140 points (17.5 per game) and grabbed 101 boards (12.6 per game).

    BREAKING 80
    In eight-plus years under Kelvin Sampson, the Sooners sport a 106-10 record (.914) when scoring at least 80 points. OU was 15-0 under the circumstance last year and is 4-0 this season. The Sooners have won 45 of their last 47 games (.957) when scoring 80 or more.

    A CHARITY CASE
    Oklahoma has traditionally been a sound free throw shooting team under Kelvin Sampson as seven of his previous eight squads have finished first or second in the conference in the category. Last year, the Sooners, who finished seventh nationally in free throw shooting, led the Big 12 with a .767 season mark (they shot an amazing .798 in league games) and broke the school record of .755 set in 1985-86. OU is again off to a great free throw shooting start this season. Through eight games, the Sooners own an identical .767 free throw mark.

    HOME IS WHERE THE "W" IS
    Lloyd Noble Center has always been extremely kind to the Sooners. Oklahoma, which posted a perfect 16-0 mark at home last year and is 6-0 this season, is 347-59 (.855) inside the building since it opened for the 1975-76 campaign. The Sooners are 110-16 (.873) at home under ninth-year head coach Kelvin Sampson and have won 28 straight. The 28-game home winning streak is OU's longest since winning 51 in a row in the late 1980s and early 1990s and is the nation's fourth longest current streak (BYU 41, Tennessee Tech 33 and Gonzaga 30).

    MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

  • Ebi Ere saw his field goal percentage drop from .520 to .482 with his 4-for-16 effort against Mississippi State.
  • Twenty-three of Jabahri Brown's 48 rebounds have been offensive (48 percent).
  • Oklahoma led the Big 12 and set a school record last year with a .767 free throw mark. Through eight games this season, OU is shooting .767 from the foul line.
  • OU is averaging 12.5 turnovers per game while its opponents are averaging 16.9. The Sooners have committed the same or fewer turnovers than its foes in seven of eight games.
  • After starting the season just 4-for-24 from three-point range, Hollis Price has made 16 of his last 33 and now owns a .351 figure.
  • Ere has made 13 more field goals and attempted 20 more than the next closest Sooner (Hollis Price).
  • The Sooners own a 1.21 assist/turnover ratio through eight games while their foes sport a 0.68 figure.
  • OU entered the year with a 24-4 (.857) neutral court record over the past three seasons but is 0-2 this year.

    SAMPSON SIGNS STELLAR HIGH SCHOOL CLASS
    Oklahoma signed four high-schoolers to national letters of intent Nov. 13. The class, which includes point guard Andrew Lavender, swingman Brandon Foust, combo guard Lawrence McKenzie and post Longar Longar, has been rated as one of the nation's 10 best.

    Lavender is a 5-7, 155-pounder from Brookhaven (Ohio) High School who averaged 11.0 points and 10.8 assists per game last year in leading his team to a state title. He is generally regarded as one of the country's top two or three point guards and is a top-20 national recruit. Lavender's teammate, Brandon Foust, is a 6-6, 200-pounder who averaged 12.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game as a junior. Foust is considered one of the nation's top 60 players. The duo led Brookhaven to a 27-1 record last year.

    McKenzie, 6-1 and 165, has won three state titles at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, Minn. The former teammate of current Sooner Johnnie Gilbert averaged 15.0 points, 8.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last year. He is regarded as a top-75 national recruit and appears on some analysts' top-50 lists.

    Longar, a 6-10, 210-pounder originally from Sudan, averaged 15.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks last year at John Marshall High School in Rochester, Minn. He is considered a top-50 recruit by most analysts.

    "I've never been into recruiting rankings," said OU head coach Kelvin Sampson. "I look at how the players a team recruits fill the needs of that team. We will lose three starting guards after this season in Quannas White, Hollis Price and Ebi Ere. Lavender, Foust and McKenzie will not only form a great backcourt, but they're all freshmen. And Longar will be a freshman in the frontcourt. He's an investment who possesses two things you can't teach -- size and athleticism. These kids all come from great high school programs and learn from great coaches."

    OU SECURES BEST PRESEASON AP RANKING
    OU's No. 3 preseason AP ranking marked its highest ever to start a season. The Sooners' previous best AP ranking heading into a season was No. 5, in both 1984-85 and 1988-89. Oklahoma finished both of those seasons ranked No. 4 in the AP poll under head coach Billy Tubbs.

    OU RANKED NO. 1 BY ESPN.COM
    ESPN.com ranked the Sooners No. 1 in the nation in its preseason power poll Nov. 13. Oklahoma is in front of No. 2 Arizona, No. 3 Kansas, No. 4 Pittsburgh and No. 5 Florida. Said ESPN.com's Jay Bilas, "The Sooners are the toughest and hardest nosed team in the nation. Kelvin Sampson has a durable and resilient group that is deep and athletic, and has embraced Sampson's style of playing smashmouth basketball on both ends of the floor. Oklahoma sends four athletes to the offensive glass, rebounds the ball with ferocity, gets into your chest and defends with an aggressive and physical demeanor, and has the mental make-up to win the national championship."

    OU BOASTS NATION'S SECOND-LONGEST POSTSEASON STREAK
    OU has participated in either the NCAA Tournament or National Invitation Tournament in each of the last 21 seasons. During that stretch the Sooners have made the NCAA field 17 times and have played in the NIT on four occasions. The 21-year streak is the second longest in the nation. OU trails only Indiana, which has made 25 straight postseason appearances.

    EIGHT STRAIGHT...AND COUNTING
    Oklahoma has qualified for the NCAA Tournament in each of Kelvin Sampson's eight years in Norman. Only eight other schools have made the "Big Dance" each of the past eight seasons (Arizona, Cincinnati, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Stanford and UCLA).

    MODEL OF CONSISTENCY
    Oklahoma has registered a winning record in 25 of its last 26 seasons. No other Big 12 team can boast as many winning campaigns since the 1975-76 season as the Sooners. OU has posted a 588-251 (.701) record over the past 26 years.

    THE LAST THREE YEARS
    Over the last three seasons, Oklahoma has amassed an 84-19 (.816) record, good for the nation's fourth best winning percentage and fourth most wins during the span:

    By Winning Percentage
    1. Duke (.880)
    2. Cincinnati (.825)
    3. Stanford (.821)
    4. Oklahoma (.816)

    By Victories
    1. Duke (95-13)
    2. Cincinnati (85-18)
    2. Tulsa (85-23)
    4. Oklahoma (84-19)

    UNDER KELVIN SAMPSON...

  • Oklahoma has posted an 84-19 (.816) record over the last three years, good for an average of 28.0 wins per season during the span.
  • Oklahoma has recorded five consecutive 20-win seasons.
  • Oklahoma owns a 68-28 (.708) Big 12 Conference record.
  • Oklahoma has won the last two Big 12 Tournament championships.
  • Oklahoma has competed in each of the last eight NCAA Tournaments.
  • Oklahoma has won its last 22 home games (sixth-longest current streak in NCAA Division I).
  • Oklahoma has finished 12th (2000), 13th (2001) and third (2002) in the last three final AP polls.