March 14, 2000
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NORMAN, Okla. - Making its sixth NCAA Tournament appearance under sixth-year head coach Kelvin Sampson and 19th appearance all told, Oklahoma (26-6 overall, 12-4 Big 12) enters Thursday's 11:40 a.m. CST game with Winthrop (21-8 overall, 11-3 Big South) as the West Region's No. 3 seed, the Sooners' highest position in the "Big Dance" since 1990 when they were the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region. OU is ranked 12th and 13th in the latest AP and ESPN/USA Today polls, respectively.
Should it advance to second-round play, Oklahoma will face the winner of Thursday's Purdue (No. 6 seed)/Dayton (No. 11 seed) on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. CST. The Boilermakers sport a 21-9 record while the Flyers are 21-7.
All of OU's NCAA Tournament games will air on the Sooner Basketball Radio Network (flagship KOMA 1520 AM in Oklahoma City) with Bob Barry, Sr., (play-by-play) and Mark Mathew (analyst) calling the action. Thursday's and Saturday's games will be televised regionally by CBS (KWTV Channel 9 in OKC). Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Dan Bonner (analyst) and Beth Mowins (courtside reporter) will describe the action.
The Sooners' six-game winning streak was snapped Sunday in the Big 12 Tournament championship game by Iowa State, 70-58. After receiving a first-round bye, Oklahoma fended off Missouri in overtime in quarterfinal action, 84-80, and handled 13th-ranked Texas in the semifinals, 81-65.
Eduardo Najera, who was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press Monday, leads Oklahoma in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocked shots. The senior ranks second in the Big 12 in scoring (18.8 ppg), second in rebounding (9.5 rpg) and seventh in steals (1.7 spg). He is the only player to rank in the top 10 in the league in all three categories. In conference games, he averaged 17.9 points (ranked fourth), 10.3 rebounds (first) and 2.3 steals (fourth). He and Ryan Minor are the only two Sooners in history to rank in OU's top 10 in career points (Najera ranks eighth), rebounds (fifth), steals (fourth) and blocked shots (sixth).
Junior college transfer Nolan Johnson, who has scored a career-high 21 points twice in the last four games, has reached double figures in 11 of the last 13 contests. He is averaging 12.8 points and 5.9 rebounds during the span. The guard has posted a .500-or-better field goal percentage in 11 of the last 14 games and shot .627 in conference games.
True freshman Hollis Price has provided a huge lift recently. The guard, who has seen more and more time at the point position, is averaging 12.4 points, 5.4 assists and 1.9 steals during the team's last seven games. He has 111 assists and just 52 turnovers this year for a clean 2.1 ratio. He has led the team in assists in 10 of the last 11 games and has made 31 of his last 34 free throw attempts (.912).
|OKLAHOMA PROBABLE STARTERS||PPG||RPG||APG|
|F||21||Eduardo Najera (6-8, 240, Sr.)||18.8||9.5||2.0|
|C||33||Renzi Stone (6-10, 250, Sr.)||4.6||3.9||1.4|
|G||5||Nolan Johnson (6-4, 215, Jr.)||9.6||4.9||1.7|
|G||10||Hollis Price (6-1, 165, Fr.)||7.0||2.2||3.5|
|G||11||J.R. Raymond (6-2, 175, So.)||13.7||3.4||3.5|
|OFF THE BENCH||PPG||RPG||APG|
|G||14||Tim Heskett (6-1, 185, Jr.)||7.5||1.5||1.4|
|G||20||Kelley Newton (6-2, 190, Jr.)||6.4||1.5||0.8|
|C||32||Victor Avila (6-10, 255, Sr.)||5.1||4.2||0.7|
|F||34||Jameel Heywood (6-6, 220, Jr.)||3.2||3.1||0.4|
Located in Rock Hill, S.C., Winthrop owns a 21-8 overall record and finished a game behind regular season Big South Conference champion Radford with an 11-3 mark. Two of the team's three conference losses were by a combined four points. The Eagles, who won the league regular season and postseason crowns last year, are making their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance under second-year head coach Gregg Marshall. Last March, the 16th-seeded Eagles lost an 80-41 first-round decision to top-seeded Auburn in Indianapolis.
No Winthrop player averages more than 29.1 minutes per game while nine players average at least 13.0 minutes per outing. The Eagles are led in scoring and rebounding by junior Greg Lewis. The forward averages 15.5 points and 6.6 boards per game and is shooting .517 from the field and .389 from beyond the arc. Senior guard Tyson Waterman averages 12.9 points and a team-high 5.2 assists while junior guard/forward Robbie Waldrop, who like OU's J.R. Raymond hails from Gastonia, N.C., averages 10.8 points and a team-high 2.9 treys per contest.
Marshall has compiled a 42-16 (.724) record as Winthrop's head coach.
Series With Winthrop
Thursday's contest will mark the first ever meeting between Oklahoma and Winthrop. In fact, the Sooners have never played any of the Big South Conference's eight current members.
Oklahoma/Winthrop Statistical Comparison
|62.5||Opponent Points Average||64.4|
|33.1||Opponent Rebounding Average||35.5|
|.456||Field Goal Percentage||.432|
|.410||Opponent Field Goal Percentage||.390|
|.314||Opponent 3-Pt. Percentage||.299|
|.711||Free Throw Percentage||.664|
|18.8||Personal Fouls Average||19.7|
|2.6||Blocked Shots Average||3.6|
Beyond The Eagles
If Oklahoma defeats Winthrop on Thursday, it will play the winner of the Pudue/Dayton contest on Saturday. The Sooners are 3-2 versus the Boilermakers and 2-1 against the Flyers. Two of OU's contests versus Dayton were postseason affairs. Oklahoma posted a 91-82 victory in the quarterfinals of the 1982 NIT while the Flyers squeaked past the second-seeded Sooners in the first round of the 1984 NCAA Tournament, 89-85.
Sooners In The NCAA Tournament
Oklahoma, which owns a 23-18 NCAA Tournament record, is making its 19th tourney appearance. The Sooners had lost five straight first-round games prior to last season's Sweet 16 showing. The 1939, 1947 and 1988 squads advanced to the national semifinals with the two most recent teams losing in the championship game. Below is a year-by-year look at OU's NCAA Tournament appearances, seeds and records.
|1979||No. 5||1-1||Indiana State|
|1985||No. 1||3-1||Memphis State|
|1990||No. 1||1-1||North Carolina|
|1992||No. 4||0-1||Southwestern Louisiana|
|1999||No. 13||2-1||Michigan State|
Last Year In The NCAA Tournament
The prospects of advancing past the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament looked bleak for the Sooners, who, as the No. 13 seed in the Midwest Region, drew No. 4 seed Arizona as their foe. But the Bradley Center in Milwaukee proved to be a favorable setting for Oklahoma as it came away with a thrilling 61-60 triumph against the Wildcats. OU trailed 60-56 with approximately a minute left when Eduardo Najera's three-pointer trimmed Arizona's lead to one. After a timeout, Wildcat freshman Michael Wright stepped across the baseline before inbounding the ball. Sooner sophomore Ryan Humphrey scored the game's final points on a tip-in with 21 seconds left. Eduardo Najera was all over the court, recording 17 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocked shots. It was OU's first NCAA Tournament win since 1990.
Two days later, the Sooners disposed of No. 5 seed UNC Charlotte by an 85-72 count to advance to the Sweet 16. Oklahoma jumped to a 21-5 lead thanks to four three-pointers by Eric Martin and led by as many as 20 in the opening stanza. The 49ers closed to within seven points with four minutes left in the game, but OU's free throw shooting slammed the door. Najera led the Sooners with 20 points and 15 boards while Martin finished with 18 points. Oklahoma's 13 three-pointers and 28 attempts were school postseason records.
At the Midwest Regional semifinal in St. Louis, the Sooners squared off with No. 1 seed Michigan State, which entered the game riding a 20-game winning streak. Oklahoma trailed by just one point at halftime and by five midway through the second half. But with 9:34 remaining, Najera and two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Mateen Cleaves collided in the Oklahoma backcourt, sending both players to the floor and Najera to the locker room with a grade one concussion, a sternoclavicular strain and a chipped tooth. He also received several stitches for a lacerated chin. Amazingly, Najera returned after missing more than five minues of action, but Michigan State had extended its lead to 10 before his re-entry. The Sooners managed to cut the deficit to four with 1:41 left, but the Spartans hung on for the 54-46 win in front of a TWA Dome crowd of 42,400, the largest to ever watch an OU basketball game.
Recapping The Big 12 Tournament
Oklahoma advanced to the Big 12 Tournament championship game for the second time in three seasons, but fell short against the top-seeded Iowa State Cyclones Sunday in Kansas City, Mo., 70-58. OU earned the No. 3 seed and a first-round bye before it survived a thrilling 84-80 overtime win against No. 6 seed Missouri. Trailing by two with 2.1 seconds left in regulation, freshman Hollis Price calmly sank two free throws to force overtime. Down by one in the extra session, junior Kelley Newton, a Kansas City, Kan., native, knocked down a three-pointer with 20 seconds on the clock to put the Sooners up for good. Nolan Johnson scored a career-high-tying 21 points and grabbed 10 boards to lead Oklahoma while Eduardo Najera posted his 14th double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. The team set season highs for free throws (37) and free throw attempts (47).
Against No. 2 seed and 13th-ranked Texas in the semifinals, OU outscored the Longhorns 51-33 after halftime to post an 81-65 win. Najera was 12-for-20 from the field and finished with a career-high 31 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Johnson and J.R. Raymond added 16 each for OU.
The Sooners managed just a .349 field goal performance against Iowa State in the title game and had difficulty slowing down Big 12 Player of the Year Marcus Fizer, especially early in the contest. Fizer tallied a game-high 22 points and was aided by 14 and 13-point efforts from guards Michael Nurse and Jamaal Tinsley, respectively. The seventh-ranked Cyclones shot .460 from the field and .840 (21-for-25) from the foul line as they avenged a double-overtime loss to OU earlier in the year. Najera, who was named to the all-tournament team, led the Sooners with 19 points while Renzi Stone grabbed a career-high-tying 10 rebounds.
Sooners Racking Up the Victories
Oklahoma fashions a 26-6 record heading into the NCAA Tournament and has attained its highest ranking (12th in the AP poll) under sixth-year head coach Kelvin Sampson. The 26 victories are already the most by the Sooners under Sampson (OU finished 23-9 in 1994-95, Sampson's first year). Iowa State (29) is the only Big 12 team with more victories than the Sooners this season.
Shooting Tells the Story
Oklahoma is shooting .456 from the field this season (ranks fifth in Big 12), .388 from three-point land (first) and .711 from the free throw line (second). The Sooners are shooting significantly better in their wins than in their losses:
|Category||26 Wins||6 Losses|
|Field Goal Percentage||.477 (725-1521)||.374 (140-374)|
|3-Point Percentage||.407 (210-516)||.313 (41-131)|
|Free Throw Percentage||.727 (368-506)||.629 (61-97)|
Oklahoma enters the NCAA Tournament with a .456 season field goal percentage. The Sooners have posted a higher mark just once in the previous seven campaigns (.471 in 1994-95). Last year, OU posted a .421 season field goal mark and shot .500 or better in just three games. The squad has recorded a .500 mark or better 10 times so far this year.
OU's Big 12 History
The Sooners boast a 43-21 (.672) Big 12 regular season record in the league's four years, second only to Kansas' 52-12 (.813) mark. OU finished 9-7 (fifth place) in 1996-97, 11-5 (tied for second) in 1997-98 and 1998-99, and 12-4 (tied for third) this season. Kelvin Sampson's Big 12 squads have posted a 24-8 league record at home and a 19-13 mark on the road.
Turnovers Few and Far Between
The Sooners have done a superb job of handling the basketball this season, as evidenced by their 12.8 turnovers per game, the lowest average in the Big 12 (Missouri ranks second with 13.3). Oklahoma has committed more turnovers than its opponents in just four of 32 games this year. OU also owns the second best assist-turnover ratio in the conference (1.2) behind Oklahoma State (1.3).
Sooner Guards Shooting .411 From Beyond Arc
Historically an excellent three-point shooting team under head coach Kelvin Sampson, Oklahoma has done nothing to jeopardize that label this season. Through 32 games, the Sooners have made 251-of-647 trey attempts for a Big 12-leading .388 mark. Sooner guards are shooting a stout .411 on the year. Here's a look at the statistics of OU's four three-point shooting guards:
Najera Nearing End of Stellar Collegiate Career
Eduardo Najera has had a superb senior season and is wrapping up one of the most productive careers in Sooner basketball history...
- Ranks second in the Big 12 (all games) in scoring (18.8 ppg), second in rebounding (9.5 rpg) and seventh in steals (1.7 spg). He is the only player to rank in the top 10 in all three categories.
- Ranked fourth in Big 12 games in scoring (17.9 ppg), led the league in rebounding (10.3 rpg) and ranked fourth in steals (2.3 spg).
- Boasted eight double-doubles in conference action.
- Has 14 double-doubles this year.
- Averages a team-high 34.2 minutes per game (35.5 in Big 12 games).
- Has scored in double figures in 30 of 32 games this year.
- Has led the team in scoring and rebounding in the same game 12 times.
- Has recorded three or more assists 11 times this season and three or more steals on nine occasions.
- Has started in 64 consecutive games.
- His 9.5 rebound average is the second highest at OU in the last 11 years (ErnieAbercrombie averaged 10.1 in 1995-96).
- Ranks eighth in career scoring at OU (1,621 points), fifth in rebounding (899), fourth in steals (189) and sixth in blocked shots (88). Only he and Ryan Minor rank in the school's all-time top 10 in the four categories.
- Was named Top of the World Classic and All-College Tournament MVP this year and was named to the Big 12 Tournament and Sooner Holiday Classic all-tournament teams.
- Earned Big 12 Player-of-the-Week acclaim Dec. 14 and Feb. 7.
- Was featured in the Feb. 7 issue of ESPN The Magazine and the Jan. 24 issue of Sports Illustrated. He was also featured on ESPN's "SportsCenter" last week.
- "Najera has solidified his position as a first-round pick. Scouts love his toughness and ability to get to the basket. He will be a pick and a favorite on any roster." - ESPN's Andy Katz
Eduardo Najera was one of 22 players named to the John R. Wooden Award ballot last week. The award will be presented to the college basketball player of the year in a ceremony to be held April 7 in Los Angeles. On Feb. 25, CBS SportsLine (www.cbssportsline.com) rated Najera as the fourth-leading candidate to receive the award. He was the highest rated Big 12 player on the list.
Johnson's Production Increases with Minutes
Guard Nolan Johnson, a junior college transfer who didn't play basketball last season because he was wrapping up academic requirements, has appeared as comfortable on the court over the last several games as he has all year. Johnson, who has scored a career-high 21 points in two of the last four games, is averaging 12.8 points and 5.9 rebounds in OU's last 13 contests and has upped his season averages to 9.6 and 4.9. During the 13-game span, he is also averaging 31.2 minutes. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he is shooting .788 from the foul line this season and .545 from the field (shot .627 in Big 12 action).
Raymond One of League's Top Newcomers
Sophomore point guard J.R. Raymond, who sat out his freshman season as a partial qualifier, ranks 11th in the Big 12 in scoring (13.7 ppg). He also averages 2.8 three-pointers per game (ranks fourth), leads the team in assists (3.5 apg) and is third in steals (1.4 spg). A starter in each game, he has made 90 three-pointers on 217 attempts (.415) and has scored in double digits in 24 of 32 outings.
In his collegiate debut versus Montana State Nov. 19 in Fairbanks, Alaska, Raymond made 9-of-16 field goal attempts, including 5-of-9 three-point tries, and finished with a game-high 29 points. He also contributed six rebounds and five assists in the 91-76 victory and went on to earn Top of the World Classic all-tournament team honors. Raymond's 29-point outburst is believed to be the second-highest scoring total by a Sooner in his collegiate debut. In 1972, center Alvan Adams scored 38 points and collected a school-record 28 rebounds against Indiana State in his first-ever game.
Raymond has also been named this year's Sooner Holiday Classic MVP and to the All-College Tournament all-tourney squad.
This Price is Right
Freshman guard Hollis Price, who started in 18 of the last 19 games for OU, is developing into a steady player on both ends of the floor. Price scored a career-high 20 points versus Texas Tech Feb. 23 and totaled 15 points three other times in Big 12 play. At Texas A&M March 1, Price contributed 15 points, seven assists and five steals. In OU's last seven games (six victories), he is averaging 12.4 points, 5.4 assists and 1.9 steals.
The New Orleans, La., native owns the Big 12's fourth-best assist/turnover ratio (2.1) and has recorded three or more assists 18 times on the year (he has led OU in the category in 10 of the last 11 games). On the season, Price averages 3.5 assists per game. The last Sooner freshman to average more than 3.0 assists was Terry Evans (4.4) in 1989-90. Lightning quick, Price also averages 1.5 steals per outing and has 14 multiple-steal games to his credit. He is averaging 34.1 minutes over OU's last nine contests.
Stone Effective From the Field
Senior forward/center Renzi Stone shot .638 from the field in Big 12 games and sports a .573 season mark. The lone Oklahoman on the OU roster, the Tulsa native owns a .519 career field goal percentage. He has started all 32 games this season and has missed just one game during his four-year career. Stone was recently named to the second squad of the Academic All-Big 12 Team. It marked the fourth straight year the history major has made the all-league team.
Junior Tim Heskett, OU's career leader in three-point percentage (.416), is shooting .408 from beyond the arc this season. Dave Sieger (.405) is the only other Sooner to ever post a career three-point mark above .400. Heskett, who set the single-season school record with a .473 three-point mark last year, ranks second on the OU career charts in three-point makes (179) and ranks fifth in attempts (430). Terry Evans owns the school record with 259 career conversions.
Heskett Handles With Care
Tim Heskett, who averages 20.3 minutes per game, has committed just 15 turnovers this season. That's an average of one turnover every 43 minutes. The junior guard leads the Big 12 with a 3.1 assist/turnover ratio and also ranks 11th with 2.2 three-point makes per contest. Heskett averages 7.5 points per game to rank fourth on the team.
OU's No. 12 AP ranking is the highest in either poll under sixth-year head coach Kelvin Sampson, who was named Big 12 Coach of the Year by College Hoops Insider.
Oklahoma, which shot .500 or better just three times all of last season, has made at least half of its field goal attempts 10 times this year.
OU entered the Big 12 Tournament ranked 11th in the league in free throw attempts (17.8 per game) but averaged 29.0 attempts over its three games in Kansas City.
Nolan Johnson is averaging 15.0 points over OU's last four games and has scored 48 of his 60 points during the span after halftime (includes three points in overtime win versus Missouri).
Three players (Eduardo Najera, J.R. Raymond and Renzi Stone) have each started all 32 games. Hollis Price and Nolan Johnson started 15 of 16 Big 12 contests (they were replaced by Victor Avila and Oleg Reztsov on Senior Night Feb. 26).
The Sooners are 21-0 when leading at halftime.
J.R. Raymond (90) and Tim Heskett (71) have combined to make 161three-pointers on the year, the most by any Big 12 duo.
Seventy-one of Tim Heskett's 75 field goal conversions (95 percent) have been three-pointers while 47 of Kelley Newton's 62 field goal makes (76 percent) have been treys. Newton's first 17 baskets this year were three-pointers.
In five-plus years under Coach Sampson, the Sooners are 74-9 (.892)when scoring 80 or more points and are 58-2 (.967) when scoring at least 80 points at home.
Oklahoma has been outrebounded just nine times in its 32 games and has committed more turnovers than its opponents in just four games.
The Sooners are averaging 7.8 three-point makes per game. Last season, OU set a school record with its 8.6 treys per outing.
OU has held each of its last 15 opponents to sub-.500 field goal shooting. In fact, nine of those 15 foes have failed to shoot .400 from the field.
OU Boasts Nation's Fourth-Longest Postseason Streak
Oklahoma has now made 19 consecutive postseason appearances (15 NCAA and four NIT), the fourth-longest streak among Division I programs. Only North Carolina, Georgetown and Indiana own longer postseason streaks. The last time Oklahoma did not compete in the postseason was in 1980-81. The four longest current postseason streaks are as follows:
Model of Consistency
Oklahoma has registered a winning record in 23 of its last 24 seasons. No other Big 12 team can boast as many winning campaigns since the 1975-76 season as the Sooners. Including this season, OU has posted a 530-238 (.690) record over the span.
Head Coach Kelvin Sampson
Now in his 17th year as a collegiate head coach, Kelvin Sampson is in his sixth year at the Oklahoma helm. He has averaged 20.6 wins per season at OU and is one of two Big 12 coaches - Kansas' Roy Williams is the other - to lead his team to the NCAA Tournament each of the last five seasons.
Sampson began his head coaching career in 1980 at Montana Tech when he was hired as the program's interim head coach. He recorded a 73-45 mark in four seasons and was inducted into the school's sports hall of fame two years ago.
In 1988, Sampson was named head coach at Washington State and compiled an even 103-103 record over seven years, including two 20-win campaigns.
Hired by Oklahoma on April 25, 1994, he has guided the Sooners to a 129-61 (.679) record and a 75-15 (.833) home mark. In 1997-98, OU finished tied for second place in the Big 12 Conference and played in the league's postseason tournament championship game. Last year, he directed OU to another second-place league finish and an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance.
Sampson was named the 1995 national coach of the year by the Associated Press, the USBWA and Basketball Times.
Sampson year by Year
|1981-82||Montana Tech||7-20 (.259)|
|1982-83||Montana Tech||22-9 (.710)|
|1983-84||Montana Tech||22-7 (.759)|
|1984-85||Montana Tech||22-9 (.710)|
|1987-88||Washington State||13-16 (.448)|
|1988-89||Washington State||10-19 (.345)|
|1989-90||Washington State||7-22 (.241)|
|1990-91||Washington State||16-12 (.571)|
|1991-92||Washington State||22-11 (.667)|
|1992-93||Washington State||15-12 (.556)|
|1993-94||Washington State||20-11 (.645)|
1999-00 Big 12 Standings
(Through Sunday, March 12)
3MICHAEL CANO (6-1, 170, SO., GUARD)
5NOLAN JOHNSON (6-4, 215, JR., GUARD)
10HOLLIS PRICE (6-1, 165, FR., GUARD)
11J.R. RAYMOND (6-2, 175, SO., GUARD)
14TIM HESKETT (6-1, 185, JR., GUARD)
20KELLEY NEWTON(6-2, 190, JR., GUARD)
21EDUARDO NAJERA(6-8, 240, SR., FORWARD)
22OLEG REZTSOV(7-2, 230, SR., CENTER)
30JARRETT HART(6-3, 210, FR., GUARD)
32VICTOR AVILA(6-10, 255, SR., CENTER)
33RENZI STONE(6-10, 250, SR., FORWARD/CENTER)
34JAMEEL HEYWOOD(6-6, 220, JR., FORWARD)