Winner of its last four games and six of its last seven, Oklahoma (8-3) plays its first true road game of the season when it faces Alabama (12-1) on Monday at 1:30 p.m. CST inside Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa. OU is coming off a 69-42 home win over SMU on Thursday while the Crimson Tide posted an 80-58 home victory over Lipscomb on Friday. Alabama is ranked No. 8 in both major polls this week.
The New Year’s Day contest will air on the Sooner Radio Network (flagship KOKC-AM 1520 in Oklahoma City) with Brian Brinkley and Mike Houck announcing. It will be televised nationally by ESPN with Bob Wischusen and Jimmy Dykes calling the action.
Date: Monday, Jan. 1
Tip: 1:30 p.m. CST
Radio: Sooner Radio Network (Flagship KOKC 1520 AM in OKC)
Series: OU leads 4-1
Oklahoma is holding its opponents to 53.7 points a game, second fewest among Big 12 teams (the league average is 64.0).
In its eight wins, OU is holding its foes to a .315 field goal mark. None of those eight opponents has shot better than .370.
Junior center Longar Longar already has more points through 11 games this year (153) than he scored in 50 games over his first two seasons combined (127).
Guard Tony Crocker (10.6 ppg) is looking to become just the second OU true freshman in the last 23 years to average double figures in scoring.
All eight of the Sooners’ wins have been by double digits.
OU is 8-0 this year when it has outrebounded its opponents and 0-3 when it hasn’t.
OKLAHOMA PROJECTED STARTERS
F 32 Taylor Griffin (6-7, 232, So., 7.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
C 30 Longar Longar (6-11, 228, Jr., 13.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg)
G 2 Michael Neal (6-3, 198, Sr., 10.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
G 5 Tony Crocker (6-5, 187, Fr., 10.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
G 20 Austin Johnson (6-3, 160, So., 10.6 ppg, 3.7 apg)
ALABAMA PROJECTED STARTERS
F 1 Mykal Riley (6-6, 185, Jr., 12.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
F 12 Alonzo Gee (6-6, 215, So., 15.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
F 33 Jermareo Davidson (6-10, 230, Sr., 14.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg)
F 35 Richard Hendrix (6-8, 265, So., 15.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg)
G 22 Ronald Steele (6-3, 185, Jr., 10.7 ppg, 4.7 apg)
The Sooners turned in one of their most complete performances of the season on Thursday in a 69-42 win over SMU, a team that entered the game with a 9-1 record. OU shot .531 from the field while holding SMU to a .300 mark, outrebounded the Mustangs 37-29 and committed a season-low 10 turnovers (just two in the second half).
Junior center Longar Longar rebounded from just his second single-digit scoring effort of the season (nine points against Tulsa) with a game-high 20 points and a career-high 15 rebounds against SMU. He was 7-for-11 from the field and got to the free throw line for a career-high 10 attempts (he made six). Longar leads OU in scoring and rebounding this year with his 13.9 and 7.7 respective averages. He ranks fourth in the Big 12 with his .604 field goal percentage and eighth with his 1.6 blocks per game. In OU’s wins, Longar averages 16.1 points and 8.8 rebounds.
Senior guard Michael Neal is averaging 10.9 points, 3.4 boards and 2.1 assists per outing while leading the Big 12 with his .893 free throw percentage. Neal, who shot .495 from 3-point range in Big 12 games last season when he was league newcomer of the year, has been held to a .250 3-point mark this season. Guard Tony Crocker has been one of the Big 12’s top freshmen, averaging 10.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals. He is shooting .523 from the field, among the best by league guards. Over the past five games, Crocker is averaging 14.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Sophomore guard Austin Johnson also contributes 10.6 points a game, as well as a team-high 3.7 assists. Johnson also leads the team with his .404 season 3-point percentage (19-for-47). Another guard, junior David Godbold averages 7.5 rebounds a game and ranks 15th in the Big 12 with his 5.8 rebounds per contest. Godbold has come off the bench in each of the last three games but ranks second on the squad with his 28.5 minutes per outing.
Oklahoma is outscoring its opponents by almost 17 points a game on the season (70.5 to 53.7) and boasts a +8.4 rebounding advantage per contest (38.3 to 29.9), best in the Big 12 Conference. OU is 8-0 this year when outrebounding its opponents.
Freshman Keith Clark sustained torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee during first-half action against SMU on Thursday and will miss the rest of the season. The 6-8, 245-pound forward from Oklahoma City came off the bench in all 11 of OU’s games this year and averaged 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.2 minutes a contest. He scored a season-high nine points against Purdue on Nov. 21 and pulled down a season-high four rebounds twice.
Clark, ranked the No. 57 player in the 2006 national recruiting class by Rivals.com, led Putnam City High School to the Class 6A state title last year by averaging 14.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists for the season. He was named City Player of the Year by The Oklahoman.
"This is a huge blow to our team," said OU head coach Jeff Capel. "First of all, it’s a big blow to Keith. He was just starting to play really well. I thought he had his best game of the year against Tulsa (Dec. 21) and played very well against SMU before he got hurt. He was making the jump to becoming a good college basketball player and I hate to see this happen to him. Keith’s injury will give other players on our team an opportunity to step up and I’m sure they’re looking forward to that challenge."
Clark will have surgery in approximately a week and will be sidelined four to six months.
Oklahoma limited SMU senior forward Ike Ofoegbu to no points and no rebounds in 17 minutes. Ofoegbu entered the game averaging a team-high 14.3 points and 8.1 boards a contest.
OU blocked nine shots on the night, giving the Sooners 27 over the last three games. Taylor Griffin registered a career-high three rejections for the second straight contest.
The Sooners shot .531 from the field, their second best figure of the year. It marked the third time in the last four games OU shot better than .500 from the floor.
SMU’s loss was just its second of the year (at Florida State, 59-52).
The Sooners won for the eighth straight time against SMU and upped their all-time series mark to 35-14.
Ranked No. 8 in both major polls, Alabama has won five straight games following its lone loss of the season (99-85 at Notre Dame on Dec. 7). The Crimson Tide boasts a +17.9 average scoring margin and a +10.6 average rebounding margin, and is shooting .496 from the field and .396 from 3-point range.
A pair of sophomore forwards leads five Tide players who average double figures in scoring. Alonzo Gee averages 15.5 points and 5.6 rebounds a game while Richard Hendrix averages 15.4 points, 9.2 boards and 2.4 assists. Gee, who was held to two points against Lipscomb on Friday, is shooting .580 from the field while Hendrix owns a .614 mark. Senior forward Jermareo Davidson averages 14.6 points, a team-high 9.8 rebounds and 4.0 blocks an outing. Another forward, junior Mykal Riley scored a team-high 21 points Friday and averages 12.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. Riley has made a team-high 29 treys on 77 attempts for a .377 season mark. Junior point guard Ronald Steele, who was voted a preseason first-team AP All-American, averages 10.7 points and a team-high 4.7 assists per game while making 26 of his 52 3-point attempts (.500).
Mark Gottfried is in his ninth year as Alabama’s head coach and owns a 172-97 (.639) record. He is in his 12th season as a collegiate head coach and is 240-121 (.665) overall.
OKLAHOMA-ALABAMA SERIES HISTORY
Oklahoma holds a 4-1 advantage over Alabama in a series that dates back to the 1970-71 season. OU won the first three games (79-70 on Dec. 14, 1970, in Tuscaloosa; 79-73 on Dec. 13, 1971, in Norman; 79-61 on Dec. 28, 1998, in Oklahoma City) before dropping a 68-62 decision in the first game of the 2002-03 season in New York City. The Sooners won last season’s New Year’s Eve meeting in Norman, 68-56.
LAST YEAR AGAINST THE CRIMSON TIDE
The Sooners notched a 68-56 New Year’s Eve home victory in front of a national ESPN audience.
OU outrebounded Alabama 40-18 overall and 16-1 on the offensive end. The Crimson Tide started players standing 6-6, 6-8, 6-8 and 6-10.
Then-freshman guard Austin Johnson came off the bench for OU to supply career highs in points (14), rebounds (five) and steals (three) after not playing the previous game due to a sprained ankle.
Kevin Bookout led OU with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Taj Gray added 13 points and seven boards.
Chuck Davis and Ronald Steele each netted 18 points for the Tide while Jermareo Davidson’s six rebounds were a team high.
Oklahoma outscored Alabama 26-13 over the final 13 minutes and sank 17 of their 18 free throw attempts (.944) on the day.
Third-year OU strength and conditioning coach Darby Rich played basketball for five seasons at Alabama under head coach Wimp Sanderson and served as a tri-captain his senior year (1991-92) with Robert Horry and Latrell Sprewell. Rich was a member of the Crimson Tide’s 1989, 1990 and 1991 SEC championship teams and was a three-time SEC academic honor roll selection.
OU assistant coach Rod Barnes spent the last eight seasons as head coach at Mississippi and posted a 7-10 record against Alabama in SEC play. Barnes also spent five seasons as an Ole Miss assistant coach (1994-98) as the Rebels went 4-6 against the Crimson Tide.
LONGAR CAPITALIZING ON OPPORTUNITY
After playing limited minutes the last two years behind All-Big 12 big men Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout, junior center Longar Longar is making the most 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 13.9 points per game (ranks 15th in Big 12), 7.7 rebounds (ranks eighth) and 1.6 blocks (ranks eighth), as well as with his .606 field goal mark (ranks fourth).
Longar is coming off a 20-point, career-high 15-rebound game against SMU, his third double-double of his career (all this season). He also 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. Additionally, he scored 21 points against Liberty in the second game of the season (Nov. 16).
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 26 more points this year (153) than he scored over his first two seasons combined (127).
CROCKER AMONG BIG 12’S TOP FRESHMEN
Tony Crocker is having one of the more memorable freshman campaigns in recent OU memory. The true freshman is one of two Sooners who has started every game and owns season averages of 10.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals (in 24.3 minutes a game) while shooting .523 from the field and .765 from the free throw line. He ranks seventh among Big 12 freshmen in scoring (among those who have played in at least half of their team’s games) and ranks second in field goal percentage among the 10 freshmen who average double figures in points (Kansas’ Darrell Arthur is shooting .560).
Crocker, who has scored in double figures in four of the last five games and is averaging 14.0 points during the stretch, is looking to become just the second true freshman since guard Tim McCalister in 1983-84 to average double figures in scoring. McCalister averaged 16.1 points that season while freshman guard Drew Lavender averaged 11.3 points in 2003-04.
Oklahoma leads the Big 12 Conference with its +8.4 rebounding margin per game. The importance of rebounding is illustrated in the fact that OU is 8-0 when it has outboarded its opponents and 0-3 when it hasn’t. In their victories, the Sooners have outrebounded their foes by 13.1 a game (41.4 to 28.3). In their losses they’ve been outboarded by 4.3 a game (34.3 to 30.0).
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WINNING AND LOSING
The following notes compare Oklahoma’s stats in wins and losses this year...
Opponents are shooting just .315 from the field in OU’s wins while they are shooting .468 in OU’s losses.
OU’s assist-to-turnover ratio in its victories is +1.2 (129 assists and 111 turnovers). The ratio in losses is -1.8 (36 and 63).
Longar Longar is averaging 16.1 points and 8.8 rebounds in the Sooners’ wins but just 8.0 points and 5.0 boards in their defeats.
Interestingly, OU is shooting .637 from the free throw line in its wins compared to .796 in its losses.
STACKING UP AGAINST THE BIG 12
OU ranks first in the Big 12 in rebounding margin (+8.4), second in scoring defense (53.7 ppg), second in field goal percentage defense (.358) and third in scoring margin (+16.7).
Michael Neal leads the conference with his .893 free throw percentage (25-for-28).
Longar Longar ranks 15th in the conference in scoring (13.9 ppg), fourth in field goal percentage (.606), eighth in rebounding (7.7), third in offensive rebounding (3.1) and eighth in blocked shots (1.6).
Taylor Griffin (10th) and David Godbold (15th) rank in the top 15 in rebounding with their 6.8 and 5.8 respective averages. Griffin also ranks sixth in the league with his 4.9 defensive boards a contest.
Austin Johnson’s 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks seventh in the conference.
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 1,437-912 (.612) all-time record and a 404-66 (.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).
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.