Playing in the first round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship for just the third time in 11-year history of the event, Oklahoma (15-14 overall, 6-10 Big 12) is the No. 9 seed in this year’s tournament which will be played at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.
The Sooners will begin their quest for a fourth Big 12 Tournament title on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. CST against No. 8 seed Iowa State (15-15, 6-10). If OU wins on Thursday, it will play a quarterfinals contest Friday at 11:30 a.m. against regular season league champion Kansas (27-4, 14-2). Saturday’s semifinals contests will be played at 1 and 3:20 p.m. while Sunday’s championship game will start at 2 p.m.
All of OU’s Big 12 Championship games will air live on the Sooner Basketball Radio Network (flagship KOKC 1520 AM in Oklahoma City) with Bob Barry, Sr. (play-by-play) and Mike Houck (analyst) calling the action. The Sooners’ first- and second-round contests will be televised by ESPN Plus and ESPNU. Saturday’s semifinal contests will be televised by ESPN Plus in Big 12 markets and by ESPN2 outside of the region. Sunday’s championship game will be shown nationally by ESPN.
The OU Athletics Ticket Office has acquired an extra allotment of Big 12 Men's Championship tickets. The $240 tickets are good for all 11 games of the tournament and can be purchased by calling (800) 456-4668 or (405) 325-2424.
OKLAHOMA IN THE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
The Sooners are 40-23 (.635) in conference postseason action (17-7 in 10 seasons of the Big 12 format). Oklahoma has participated in 12 tournament championship games, including five of the last nine, and has won seven crowns. OU won Big 12 titles in 2001, 2002 and 2003, and earned Big Eight titles in 1979, 1985, 1988 and 1990.
Date: Thursday, March 8
Location: Oklahoma City, Okla. (Ford Center)
Tip: 11:37 a.m. CST
TV: ESPN Plus (KOCB 34/Cox 11 in OKC; KJRH 2/Cox 9 in Tulsa) and ESPNU
TV Talent: Dave Armstong and Reid Gettys
Radio: Sooner Radio Network (Flagship KOKC 1520 AM in OKC); Yahoo! Broadcast (subscription)
Radio Talent: Bob Barry Sr. and Mike Houck
Series: OU leads 105-77
Earlier This Year: ISU 58, OU 51 (Feb. 13 in Ames)
OU'S BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP FAST FACTS
Oklahoma won three consecutive titles (2001, 2002, 2003).
The Sooners have played in five of the last nine championship games.
Oklahoma won its first-round 2004 game against Nebraska to tie a Big 12 record for most consecutive league tournament victories (10, shared by Kansas).
Only Kansas (19 wins and four titles) has more total tournament wins and championships than OU (17 victories and three crowns).
Oklahoma’s Nolan Johnson was the championship’s most valuable player in 2001 while Hollis Price earned the honor in 2002 and 2003.
The Sooners are holding opponents to a .402 field goal mark on the year to rank 26th nationally. The last time OU allowed foes to shoot less than .402 for an entire season was in 1960-61 (a span of 46 years).
OU shot .778 from the free throw line over its last 11 Big 12 outings (144-for-185).
Nate Carter averaged 4.4 points and 2.3 rebounds prior to Big 12 play but averaged 16.5 points and 7.1 rebounds over the team’s 16 conference outings.
OU finished 6-10 in Big 12 games but outscored its opponents by 26 points in league play. Its +1.6 scoring margin in Big 12 play ranked fifth in the conference.
Opponents are averaging 23.1 free throw attempts over the last seven games compared to Oklahoma’s 14.9.
The Sooners have been outrebounded just nine times on the season. It has happened five times in the last six games.
In its 15 wins, OU is holding foes to a .345 field goal mark. Twelve of those 15 opponents have failed to shoot .400.
OKLAHOMA PROJECTED STARTERS
F 24 Nate Carter (6-6, 220, Sr., 11.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
F 32 Taylor Griffin (6-7, 232, So., 6.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
G 2 Michael Neal (6-3, 198, Sr., 10.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
G 3 Bobby Maze (6-3, 175, Fr., 5.8 ppg, 1.9 apg)
G 15 David Godbold (6-5, 215, Jr., 7.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
IOWA STATE PROJECTED STARTERS
F 4 Wesley Johnson (6-7, 195, Fr., 12.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg)
F 13 Rahshon Clark (6-6, 200, Jr., 6.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
C 33 Jiri Hubalek (6-11, 225, Jr., 11.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
G 4 Corey McIntosh (6-0, 160, Jr., 4.4 ppg, 2.4 apg)
G 24 Mike Taylor (6-2, 165, Jr., 15.9 ppg, 4.5 apg)
After winning four straight games to stand at 6-4 in the Big 12, the Sooners have lost six consecutive contests and finished in a tie for seventh place with Iowa State, Nebraska and Oklahoma State. OU closed the regular season with a 72-61 defeat at Kansas State on Saturday, a game that saw Jeff Capel’s squad outscore the Wildcats 39-31 in the second half after trailing 41-22 at halftime. Kansas State became just the second team in 29 games this year to shoot .500 or better from the field against Oklahoma (it posted a .532 figure) and registered an opponent-season-high .583 mark from 3-point range (7-for-12). The Sooners, who countered .333 first-half field goal shooting with a .516 effort after intermission, committed their most turnovers (17) in the last 19 games.
Oklahoma’s leading scorer on the year, senior forward Nate Carter registered a team-high-tying 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds against Kansas State. Carter, who averaged 4.4 points and 2.3 rebounds prior to Big 12 play, was named a third-team all-conference selection Sunday after averaging 16.5 points and 7.1 boards in league action. He scored in double figures in 15 of 16 conference outings. Carter leads the Big 12 in free throw percentage in all games (.856) and made 73 of his last 79 attempts (.924) in league play.
Junior center Longar Longar was held to single digits in points Saturday for the fifth 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). OU’s second-leading scorer (10.7 ppg) and leading rebounder (7.1 rpg) on the season, Longar had two points and two rebounds in 18 minutes at Kansas State. The junior center, who is shooting .558 from the field on the season, is averaging 14.7 points and 8.4 rebounds in OU’s wins but just 6.3 points and 5.7 boards in the team’s losses. He is averaging 4.2 points and 4.6 rebounds over the last five outings while shooting .290 from the floor.
Michael Neal, last year’s Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, ranked second on the team in scoring (10.6 ppg) in league games but has been held to single digits in five of the last six games. The senior guard, who netted 18 points with the help of four 3-pointers against Missouri Feb. 20, averages 10.0 points per game on the year and also supplies 2.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting .310 from beyond the arc. In Big 12 games he averaged 2.2 3-point makes per contest.
Sophomore forward Taylor Griffin has started the last two games after coming off the bench for more than a month. He had just one point and two rebounds Saturday, one game after posting 12 points (his most in 13 games), seven rebounds and a career-high-tying three blocked shots against Kansas. On the season, Griffin is averaging 6.3 points and ranks second on the team with his 5.2 rebounds a game. He also averages 1.0 block.
Tony Crocker, a freshman guard who had gone the last 13 league games without reaching double figures, scored 14 off the bench at Kansas State with the help of 3-for-4 3-point shooting. Crocker ranks fourth on the team by averaging 8.4 points a game and also contributes 3.8 rebounds.
KANSAS STATE LEFTOVERS
Kansas State’s .532 field goal mark was the second best against OU this year while the Wildcats’ .583 effort from 3-point land was the best.
The Sooners led 14-13 with 11 minutes left in the first half but surrendered 9-0 and 11-0 runs to trail 41-22 at halftime.
Cartier Martin scored a career-high 30 points in his final home game.
After attempting at least two 3-pointers in each of his first 53 career games, Michael Neal did not shoot from beyond the arc Saturday.
Oklahoma committed more fouls (26) than its opponent (18) for the seventh straight game. K-State shot 26 free throws to OU’s 15.
The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak against Kansas State and a three-game streak in Manhattan.
IOWA STATE UPDATE
Iowa State, winner of its first two Big 12 games before going 4-10 over the final 14 league contests, is coming off a 63-61 home loss to Texas Tech on Saturday. The Cyclones sport a 15-15 overall record and went 12-5 at home, 3-9 in road games and 0-1 in neutral site play. The Cyclones are shooting .408 from the field (rank last in the Big 12), .324 from beyond the arc (rank 11th) and .697 from the free throw line (rank eighth). They outrebound their opponents by 1.8 a game.
Head coach Greg McDermott is in his first year at Iowa State and is 236-142 (.624) in his 13th season overall.
OKLAHOMA-IOWA STATE SERIES HISTORY
Oklahoma owns a 105-77 (.577) series lead against Iowa State and is 4-2 against the Cyclones in postseason conference tournament action. The Sooners are 7-5 against ISU since the inception of the Big 12 Conference but lost in the teams’ only Big 12 Championship meeting (70-58 in the 2000 title game in Kansas City). OU went 4-1 against the Cyclones in Big Eight Tournament play, winning 71-67 in the 1982 first round, 73-71 in the 1985 title game, 83-73 in the 1987 first round and 76-74 in the 1989 semifinals. Iowa State posted a 69-55 victory in the 1993 opening round.
Oklahoma took a four-game winning streak to Ames on Feb. 13, but turned in its worst half of the season and dug themselves a hole too deep from which to escape in a 58-51 loss. Leading 5-0 as Iowa State was kept off the scoreboard until the 15:08 mark, OU’s fortunes quickly changed as it surrendered 14 straight points en route to a 32-17 halftime deficit. The Cyclones’ lead grew to 18 (39-21) before the Sooners mounted a comeback that closed the margin to four (53-49). An OU 3-point attempt that would have made the score 53-52 with 40 seconds left was off the mark, however, and Iowa State made its final four free throws to seal the win. The Sooners posted season lows in points (tied), points in a half (17), 3-pointers (2), 3-point percentage (.133) and assists (5). They shot .300 from the field in the first half when they committed 12 of their 16 turnovers.
Longar Longar posted a double-double with 20 points (all in the second half) and 12 rebounds while Bobby Maze scored 10 points off the bench. Nate Carter was held to no field goals and two points. Iowa State’s Jiri Hubalek was 11-for-16 from the field and finished with a career-high 26 points and nine rebounds while Mike Taylor and Rahshon Clark contributed 12 and 10 points.
OU IN THE FORD CENTER (6-1 RECORD)
2002-03: OU 60, Michigan State 58*
2002-03: OU 71, South Carolina State 54^
2002-03: OU 74, California 65#
2003-04: OU 58, Princeton 55*
2004-05: OU 70, Tulsa 64*
2005-06: West Virginia 92, OU 68*
2006-07: OU 70, Tulsa 64*
* All-College Classic
^ NCAA Tournament First Round
# NCAA Tournament Second Round
A WIN ON THURSDAY WOULD...
Even the Sooners’ record this year against Iowa State at 1-1.
Improve Oklahoma’s all-time Big 12 Championship record to 18-7 (.720).
Up OU’s all-time conference tournament mark against Iowa State to 5-2 (1-1 in the Big 12 Championship).
Give the Sooners at least one victory in the Big 12 Championship for the ninth time in the 11-year history of the event.
Pit Oklahoma against Kansas for the second time in a week-and-a-half (KU won 67-65 in Norman on Feb. 26).
Improve OU’s record inside the Ford Center to 7-1.
FOUR SOONERS NAMED ACADEMIC ALL-BIG 12
Seniors Michael Neal and Kellen Sampson and sophomores Taylor Griffin and Austin Johnson comprised nearly one-fifth of the 22-member Academic All-Big 12 Team that was announced Thursday, March 1. Neal and Sampson were first-team selections while Griffin and Johnson were second-team honorees. Sampson graduated in December with a degree in communication, Neal is majoring in African and African-American studies and Griffin is majoring in zoology/pre-med. Johnson is undecided on his major. OU claimed two of the nine first-team spots and was the only school with multiple first-team selections.
CARTER EARNS ALL-LEAGUE HONORS
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, averaged 16.5 points and 7.1 boards in 31 minutes per contest over 16 league outings to earn third-team All-Big 12 honors. He shot .492 from the field and .875 from the free throw line (84-for-96) while leading the team with 48 offensive rebounds in conference play. Carter had 53 points over OU’s first 12 games but has tallied 279 over the last 17.
Carter in Big 12 Play
at Texas Tech
at Oklahoma State
at Texas A&M
at Iowa State
at Kansas State
Carter in Big 12 Play
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 surpassed that total in nine of the last 14 league contests.
Carter (16.5 ppg and 7.1 rpg) is one of four players who averaged at least 16.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in Big 12 play. Texas’ Kevin Durant (28.9 and 12.5), Nebraska’s Aleks Maric (19.3 and 9.4) and OSU’s Mario Boggan (17.8 and 8.2) were the others.
Carter had his school-record string of 37 consecutive free throw makes broken against Longwood Jan. 30. He made 39 straight attempts in league play before a second-half miss against Texas Tech Feb. 3.
In Big 12 play, Carter ranked second in the league in free throw percentage (.875), fourth in offensive rebounding (3.0 per game), fifth in field goal percentage (.492), ninth in scoring (16.5 ppg) and 10th in rebounding (7.1 rpg).
Carter leads the Big 12 in free throw shooting in all games (.856).
Including his freshman and sophomore seasons at UC Riverside, Carter has tallied 1,315 career points.
OPPORTUNITY, SUCCESS COINCIDE FOR LONGAR
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 averages 10.7 points per game and team highs of 7.1 rebounds (ranks eighth in Big 12) and 1.4 blocks (ranks sixth). He also sports a team-best .558 field goal mark (he would rank third in the league lead but he doesn’t have enough makes to qualify 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 has more than twice as many points this year (288) than he scored over his first two seasons combined (127).
ON THE DEFENSIVE
The Sooners’ defense has been suffocating at times this year, as evidenced by opponents’ 59.3 points per game and .402 combined field goal percentage. The last time OU gave up less than 59.3 points per contest for an entire season was in 1977-78 (58.2 ppg). The last time Oklahoma opponents shot worse than .402 for a season was in 1960-61 (.377) a span of 46 years.
No opponent has scored more than 80 points against OU this year and Texas (.547 on Jan. 13) and Kansas State (.532 on March 3) are the only foes to shoot .500 or better from the field. The Sooners have held 12 of their opponents under .400 shooting.
Due to a significant increase in personal fouls called against the Sooners of late, opponents have shot more free throws than Oklahoma in each of the last seven games. OU has been whistled for 143 fouls over the last seven contests (an average of 20.4) while opponents have been called for 110 fouls during the span (an average of 15.7). As a result, foes are averaging 23.1 free throw attempts over those seven games compared to OU’s 14.9.
FINE AT THE LINE
After shooting .670 from the free throw line in non-conference games, the Sooners shot .741 from the charity stripe in Big 12 action to rank second in the league. They posted a .778 free throw mark (144-for-185) over their last 11 league outings.
Oklahoma ranks third in the Big 12 Conference with its +4.8 rebounding margin per game and has been outrebounded just nine times in 29 contests this season (five times in the last six games, however). The importance of rebounding is illustrated in the fact that OU is 13-4 when it has outboarded its opponents and 1-10 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 did a much better job of taking care of the basketball in their Big 12 games. OU averaged just 12.6 turnovers per conference outing to rank fourth in the Big 12. The Sooners are 10-3 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 14 losses it is getting outboarded by 1.1.
OU is shooting .493 from the field in its wins but only .378 in its defeats.
Opponents are shooting just .345 from the field in OU’s wins while they are shooting .468 in OU’s losses.
Longar Longar is averaging 14.7 points and 8.4 rebounds in the Sooners’ wins but just 6.3 points and 5.7 boards in their defeats.
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.
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 1,444-923 (.610) all-time record and a 410-69 (.856) 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).