Nov. 20, 1999

Fairbanks, Alaska - The University of Oklahoma mens basketball team began its 1999-2000 season in triumphant fashion with a 91-76 first-round victory over Montana State at the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska, Friday night. Sophomore point guard J.R. Raymond scored 29 points in his collegiate debut while preseason All-American Eduardo Najera added 23 and a game-high eight rebounds for the Sooners.

Oklahoma started the game on a 24-10 run before Montana State outscored OU by a 26-14 count the rest of the half. Bobcat guard Justin Brown keyed Montana States surge by making all four of his first-half three-point attempts. The sophomore scored 17 first-half points and finished with 27 for the game.

Montana State scored 11 of the first 16 points of the second half and led 47-43 at the 16:34 mark before OU started battling back. Spurred by a strong defensive performance and outstanding three-point shooting, the Sooners scored 53 second-half points and cruised to the victory. They led by as many as 19 with 2:43 left in the game.

This was a great opening game of the season, said OU Head Coach Kelvin Sampson. I think the first eight or nine games of the season will all serve as tremendous learning experiences. Weve got six guys who have never played at this level and were starving for game experience. For J.R. Raymond to score 29 points in his first college game, that should give people a little bit of an idea as to what he can do offensively. He also did a real good job of handling the basketball and running the offense.

Overall, I thought we played a smart game. Whenever we started to get into trouble we got the ball to Eduardo. And J.R., Tim Heskett and Kelley Newton stepped up and hit the big threes when we needed them.

Oklahoma shot a torrid .667 (12-for-18) from three-point range and received 5-for-7 and 5-for-9 performances from Heskett and Raymond, respectively. Newton was 2-for-2 from long distance.

After missing their first four free throw attempts of the game, the Sooners made their final 17 tries, 15 in the second half. OU also outrebounded the Bobcats 34-26 and forced 17 MSU turnovers.

Oklahoma faces George Washington Saturday at 8 p.m. AST (11 p.m. CST). The Colonials, who finished 20-9 last year and won the West Division of the Atlantic 10 with a 13-3 league mark, defeated Indiana State Friday, 80-74.

George Washington is coached by former Texas mentor Tom Penders. Sampsons Sooner squads won six out of seven contests against Longhorns while Penders was their coach.

Other teams to advance to the Top of the World Classic winners' bracket were California (beat TCU 91-83) and Houston (beat Alaska-Fairbanks 81-59).