March 26, 2003
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Making its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance under ninth-year head coach Kelvin Sampson and 22nd appearance all told, Oklahoma (26-6 overall, 12-4 Big 12) enters Friday's Sweet 16 game against Butler (27-5 overall, 14-2 Horizon League) as the East Region's No. 1 seed. The contest, which will be played at Pepsi Arena in Albany, N.Y., will start at 6:10 p.m. CST. The Sooners are ranked third in the latest AP and ESPN/USA Today polls and posted wins over No. 16 seed South Carolina State (71-54) and No. 8 seed California (74-65) to advance to the regional semifinals. Butler is the region's No. 12 seed and is unranked. The Bulldogs beat No. 5 seed Mississippi State (47-46) and No. 4 seed Louisville (79-71) last weekend.
Should it advance to the Elite Eight, Oklahoma will play Sunday against the winner of the Syracuse (No. 3 seed) versus Auburn (No. 10 seed) affair. The Orangemen sport a 26-5 record while the Tigers are 23-11.
All of OU's NCAA Tournament games 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. Friday's and Sunday's games will be televised regionally by CBS. Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Len Elmore (analyst) and Solomon Wilcots (courtside reporter) will announce.
AVERAGES OKLAHOMA PROJECTED STARTERS PPG RPG F 32 Johnnie Gilbert (6-8, 230, So.) 3.9 4.9 F 34 Kevin Bookout (6-8, 260, Fr.) 9.4 5.9 G 4 Quannas White (6-1, 190, Sr.) 9.0 3.6 G 10 Hollis Price (6-1, 170, Sr.) 18.5 2.9 G 15 D. Alexander (6-4, 215, Fr.) 7.1 3.6
After sewing up their third straight Big 12 Tournament title, the Sooners won their first and second round NCAA Tournament games despite injuries and ailments to key players. Big 12 Player of Year Hollis Price strained his left groin in the closing seconds of OU's league tournament championship game win over Missouri and was limited versus South Carolina State and California in Oklahoma City. The guard had three points in 11 minutes against the Bulldogs and five points in 30 minutes versus the Golden Bears. Freshman Kevin Bookout was diagnosed with strep throat on Wednesday and was held scoreless in just nine minutes against South Carolina State. He bounced back in OU's game with Cal, however, and poured in a career-high 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting and had seven rebounds. Ebi Ere continues to recover from a boken brone in his left (non-shooting) wrist that he sustained in practice prior to the Big 12 Tournament. The senior has still played 24.4 minutes per game since the injury and has averaged 7.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in five postseason games.
Price, a leading candidate for national player of the year, ranks second in the Big 12 with his 18.5 points per game, first in free throw percentage (.929) and second in three-pointers per game (2.8). In league games, he ranked second in scoring (20.1 ppg), first in free throw percentage (.935), first in treys per game (3.5) and second in three-point percentage (.509). Price stands in seventh place on OU's career scoring list with 1,801 points and currently ranks as the school's career leader in free throw percentage (.861). In addition to his 18.5 points per contest, he also averages 2.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals.
Ere ranks second on the team with his 12.7 points per outing, but has failed to reach double digits in 12 of the last 20 games. The guard, who has come off the bench in nine of the last 12 contests, averaged 18.4 points in OU's first 12 games of the year but just 9.3 since. Point guard Quannas White, a member of the Big 12 All-Tournament Team (he was 10-for-14 from three-point range), is averaging 9.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and a team-high 4.1 assists. He has been especially good over the last 15 games, averaging 12.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists while shooting .571 from the field (60-for-105) and .597 from three-point range (37-for-62). White ranks second in the Big 12 with a 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio and has committed just 47 turnovers in 32 games. He leads the Big 12 with his .476 season three-point percentage and led in conference play with a .519 mark. Freshman guard De'Angelo Alexander has started nine of the last 12 games in place of Ere and has scored in double figures in six of the last 10 outings. He is averaging 7.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game on the season and averaged a team-high 15.5 points, 6.0 boards and 2.5 assists in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. He was 6-for-9 from beyond the arc versus South Carolina State and California.
In the frontcourt, Bookout has emerged as one of the Big 12's more dependable big men. The forward averages 9.4 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting a league-best .581 from the field. In Big 12 games, he averaged 10.3 points and 6.4 boards, and shot a conference-best .579. Sophomore forward Johnnie Gilbert has made 10 of his 11 starts in the second half of the season, including five in the postseason. Known more for his rebounding and defensive ability, Gilbert averages 3.9 points, 4.9 boards and 1.0 block per game. Jabahri Brown, a junior center who has started in 21 of his 30 games, averages 6.3 points, 5.2 boards and 1.3 rejections per outing. He has come off the bench in all five postseason games.
SOONERS IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Oklahoma, which owns a 30-21 NCAA Tournament record, is making its 22nd tourney appearance and is 9-8 under Kelvin Sampson. The Sooners had lost five straight first-round games prior to their Sweet 16 showing in 1999. The 1939, 1947, 1988 and 2002 squads advanced to the national semifinals with the '47 and '88 teams losing in the championship game. Below is a year-by-year look at OU's NCAA Tournament appearances, seeds and records.
Year Seed Record Final Opponent 1939 -- 1-1 Oregon 1943 -- 1-1 Wyoming 1947 -- 3-1 Holy Cross 1979 No. 5 1-1 Indiana State 1983 No. 7 1-1 Indiana 1984 No. 2 0-1 Dayton 1985 No. 1 3-1 Memphis State 1986 No. 4 1-1 DePaul 1987 No. 6 2-1 Iowa 1988 No. 1 5-1 Kansas 1989 No. 1 2-1 Virginia 1990 No. 1 1-1 North Carolina 1992 No. 4 0-1 Southwestern La. 1995 No. 4 0-1 Manhattan 1996 No. 10 0-1 Temple 1997 No. 11 0-1 Stanford 1998 No. 10 0-1 Indiana 1999 No. 13 2-1 Michigan State 2000 No. 3 1-1 Purdue 2001 No. 4 0-1 Indiana State 2002 No. 2 4-1 Indiana 2003 No. 1 2-0
SAMPSON EARNS 10TH STRAIGHT NCAA BID
This year's NCAA Tournament appearance marks Kelvin Sampson's 10th straight as a head coach (nine with Oklahoma and one with Washington State). That string ranks fourth among current coaches. Only Arizona's Lute Olson (19 straight), Kansas' Roy Williams (14) and Cincinnati's Bob Huggins (12) have taken teams to more consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Kentucky's Tubby Smith and Maryland's Gary Williams have also been to 10 straight "Big Dances" while Stanford's Mike Montgomery has been to nine.
OU OWNS NATION'S SECOND-LONGEST POSTSEASON STREAK
Oklahoma has made 22 consecutive postseason appearances (18 NCAA and four NIT), the second-longest streak among Division I programs. Only Indiana owns a longer postseason streak with 26 straight appearances (24 NCAA, two NIT). The last time OU did not compete in the postseason was in 1980-81.
BUTLER SERIES HISTORY
Butler holds a 2-1 series advantage over Oklahoma. The teams most recently met in the first round of the Big Island Invitational Nov. 28, 1997, in Hilo, Hawaii. The Bulldogs came away with a 73-63 win over the 18th-ranked Sooners by shooting .625 from the field and .500 from three-point range. OU, meanwhile, shot .310 from the field and .136 from beyond the arc. Corey Brewer led Oklahoma with 15 points while Eduardo Najera and Robert Allison added 11 and 10, respectively. The Sooners beat Butler 79-75 in Norman during the 1967-68 season but dropped a 65-63 decision in Indianapolis two years earlier.
OU VS. SYRACUSE AND AUBURN
The Sooners are 1-1 against both Syracuse and Auburn, Oklahoma's potential Elite Eight foes. OU won at Syracuse, 98-91, during the 1983-84 season behind 33 points from Wayman Tisdale. The Orangemen downed the Sooners 55-49 in Syracuse in 1948-49. Oklahoma knocked off Auburn in the second round of the 1988 NCAA Tournament, 107-87, in Atlanta, Ga., as Stacey King poured in 37 points and grabbed nine rebounds. The Tigers earned their victory over OU in the Big Sun Classic in St. Petersburg, Fla., 78-70, during the 1978-79 season.
AN OKLAHOMA WIN ON FRIDAY WOULD...
AN OKLAHOMA WIN ON SUNDAY WOULD...
SOONERS THIS CENTURY
Over the past four seasons (starting with 1999-2000), Oklahoma has posted the second-best winning percentage in NCAA Division I (entering regional play)...
1. Duke 121-19 (.864) 2. Oklahoma 110-25 (.815) 3. Kansas 110-28 (.797) 4. Stanford 102-26 (.797) 5. Butler 100-27 (.787)
OU NUMBER FIVE WITH NO. 1 SEEDS
This year's No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed is Oklahoma's fifth in the last 20 years. The five No. 1 seeds are the fifth most for a school over the 20-year period. Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina rank first with seven No. 1 seeds each over the past 20 seasons while Kansas has racked up six No. 1s. Arizona also has five No. 1 seeds. Georgetown and Michigan State have been No. 1 seeds four times in the last 20 years while Connecticut, Purdue and UNLV have been No. 1s three times during that span.
RECAPPING OU'S FIRST TWO ROUNDS
Despite getting single-digit point performances from its top four scorers on the season, top-seeded Oklahoma beat 16th-seeded South Carolina State 71-54 Thursday afternoon in front of a partisan OU crowd at the Ford Center in downtown Oklahoma City. Hollis Price (three), Ebi Ere (nine), Kevin Bookout (zero) and Quannas White (seven) combined for 19 points (they averaged a combined 51 entering the day), but De'Angelo Alexander, Blake Johnston and Jabahri Brown picked up the slack. Alexander and Johnston recorded career highs with 16 and 15 points, respectively, while Brown had 12 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. Alexander made a career-high four treys on six attempts while Johnston was a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. The Sooners got off to a slow start and scored just one basket in the game's first 7:56. OU recovered, though, and outscored the Bulldogs 31-9 the rest of the half. Price (recovering from a pulled groin) and Bookout (strep throat) did not play after halftime. Oklahoma shot .556 from three-point land (10-for-18), outboarded S.C. State by six and forced 18 Bulldog turnovers.
In the second round, OU scored the first eight points of the game and never trailed in a 74-65 victory over No. 8 seed California. Bookout, who played just nine minutes against South Carolina and did not score, registered a career-high 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting and added seven rebounds against the Golden Bears. Fellow freshman Alexander netted 15 points and also pulled down seven boards. The pair accounted for half of OU's points and 39 percent of its rebounds. The Sooners led by as many as 15 in the first half before settling for a 33-24 halftime advantage. Oklahoma scored the first nine points of the second stanza to go up by 18, matching its largest lead of the game. Cal shot .586 from the field after halftime but gained little ground as OU recorded a .556 second-half figure. David Wethers scored a game-high 27 points on 11-for-18 shooting while Joe Shipp added 20 points. Cal forward Amit Tamir, averaging 15.4 points per game entering the day, was held to one point. OU's White scored 12 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists. The Sooners outboarded the Bears 36-24.
FIRST AND SECOND ROUND LEFTOVERS
2002 NCAA TOURNEY LEFTOVERS
The Sooners are 25-3 in overall tournament play over the last three years with seven trophies in their pockets. Two years ago, OU won the Sooner Invitational, the Big Island Invitational, the All-College Tournament and the Big 12 Tournament before losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Last year OU went 1-1 in the Preseason NIT (lost at Michigan State), claimed the Big 12 Tournament title and went 4-1 in the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma went 2-0 in the Sooner Invitational this season before taking the Big 12 Tournament championship for the third straight year and winning its first two NCAA Tournament games.
SIX STRAIGHT 20-WIN SEASONS
OU's 69-64 victory at Texas A&M March 1 marked the team's 20th win of the season. The Sooners have compiled six straight 20-win campaigns under Kelvin Sampson and have won at least 22 each of those years. This marks the 21st 20-win season in school history and seventh under Sampson in nine years.
SAMPSON A NAISMITH AWARD FINALIST
Last year's NABC and CBS/Chevrolet National Coach of the Year, Kelvin Sampson was named one of 25 finalists for the Naismith Coach of the Year Award Feb. 26 by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Other Big 12 coaches on the list are Rick Barnes (Texas), Eddie Sutton (Oklahoma State) and Roy Williams (Kansas). The winner will be honored in Atlanta on April 11. Sampson also earned national coach of the year honors in 1994-95, his first season at OU, from the AP, USBWA and Basketball Times.
FROM WAY DOWNTOWN
Oklahoma has been exceptional from three-point range the last half of the season and has shot .500 or better from long range 10 times in the last 15 games (OU is 127-for-272 over the 15 games for a .467 figure). In its first 17 games, OU shot .348 from beyond the arc. The team's season three-point mark now stands at .402, best in the Big 12. In conference games, OU led the league with a .422 figure. Quannas White has gone 37-for-62 (.597) from long range over the last 15 games while Hollis Price has drained 48-of-92 (.522) attempts over the past 16 outings.
109 AND COUNTING FOR PRICE
Although he scored just three points in 11 minutes of action (groin injury), senior guard Hollis Price picked up his 108th victory in an OU uniform Thursday against South Carolina State in the NCAA Tournament first round to become the winningest player in school history. Since he became a Sooner, Oklahoma owns a 110-25 (.815) record. Price missed last year's Texas Southern game, an Oklahoma win, with an eye injury so OU is 109-25 (.813) in games in which he's played. Darryl "Choo" Kennedy (1984-87) held the record for most victories by a Sooner with 107.
One of the best guards to ever wear an Oklahoma uniform, senior Hollis Price is averaging 18.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game this year. He has passed 15 players (Corey Brewer, Bobby Jack, Garfield Heard, David Little, Aaron Curry, Al Beal, Mookie Blaylock, David Johnson, Terry Evans, Harvey Grant, Chucky Barnett, John McCullough, Don Sidle, Eduardo Najera and Alvan Adams) on the school's all-time scoring chart this season. Price now stands seventh on the career list with 1,801 points and will likely end up in that spot (Ryan Minor is sixth with 1,946). The New Orleans native also ranks first in career free throw percentage (.861), second in three-point field goals (237), second in three-point field goal attempts (599), second in minutes played (4,223), third in games played (134), fourth in steals (218), sixth in assists (455), eighth in three-point field goal percentage (.396) and 10th in steals per game (1.6).
Price was named the Associated Press Big 12 Player of the Year and was selected to the league's all-defense team. He was also named a USBWA first-team All-American. Price won his second consecutive Big 12 Tournament MVP Award after averaging 19.7 points, 3.7 boards, 2.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game while shooting .500 from the field, .389 from beyond the arc and 1.000 from the foul line during the event.
Senior Hollis Price attempted 99 free throws last year (2.8 per game). This year, however, Price has already attempted 140 foul shots (4.4 per game). The guard, who is shooting .929 from the line this year, saw his school-record streak of 36 makes without a miss come to a halt Feb. 23 versus Kansas when he went 0-for-2. He bounced back with a 6-for-6 performance at Missouri the next game and has now made 89 of his last 94 tries (.947). In addition to his streak of 36 straight makes, Price also made 27 in a row earlier in the year. Price ranks first on the OU career free throw percentage chart at .861 (Bo Overton shot .852 from 1980 to 1983). John Ontjes holds the OU single-season record (.867 in 1993-94).
A TOP-10 HIT
Oklahoma is ranked third in the latest AP poll. That makes 30 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.
Only two opponents have scored more than 70 points this year as Oklahoma has held five foes to point totals in the 40s, nine in the 50s and 16 in the 60s. The Sooners held their first 17 opponents to 68 points or less. The last time OU held 17 straight opponents to 68 or fewer points in a single season was the 1950-51 campaign (first 22 games of the year). On the season, OU is holding opponents to 60.1 points per game, fewest in the Big 12. The last time OU held opponents to 60.1 points per game over the course of an entire season was 1977-78 (58.2 under head coach Dave Bliss). The lowest opponent scoring average by Kelvin Sampson's Sooners was 61.9 in 1998-99.
OU's senior guard trio of Ebi Ere, Hollis Price and Quannas White has accounted for 56 percent of the team's points, 62 percent of its assists and 52 percent of its steals. The three guards have also made 77 percent of OU's three-pointers on the year and 61 percent of its free throws.
HEAVY IN THE BACK(COURT)
Sooner backcourt members have scored 1,593 of the team's 2,280 points this year. That means 70 percent of OU's scoring has come from its guards. They have also registered 366 of OU's 457 assists (80 percent).
Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson has long stressed protecting the ball 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, who only had six turnovers Jan. 13 against Oklahoma State (their fewest since committing five vs. Arizona in last year's Sweet 16) and just seven Feb. 8 versus Baylor, again rank second in the Big 12 this season with only 11.9 turnovers per game.
JOHNSTON ON ALL-ACADEMIC TEAM
Three weeks ago, sophomore public relations major Blake Johnston was named a first-team Academic All-Big 12 selection. It marked the second straight year the guard from Midland, Texas, earned the honor. First-team members consist of players who have maintained a 3.20 or better grade-point average either cumulatively or in each of the last two semesters.
EBI'S ROLLERCOASTER RIDE
Guard Ebi Ere had a stellar first 12 games of his senior season but has been up and down since. The 6-5, 215-pounder led the Sooners in scoring in eight of the first 12 outings and boasted an 18.4 scoring average after those 12 games. Ere has failed to reach double figures in 12 of the last 20 outings, however, and is averaging 9.3 points on .276 (56-for-203) field goal and .268 (22-for-82) three-point shooting over the 20-game stretch. He now averages 12.7 points, 4.7 boards, 2.0 assists and 0.9 steals per game.
THE BOOK ON BOOKOUT
True freshman Kevin Bookout was thrown to the wolves in the non-conference season, facing noted big men Erwin Dudley (Alabama), Mario Austin (Mississippi State), Aloysius Anagonye (Michigan State) and Emeka Okafor (Connecticut). The experience seemed to pay off for the 6-8, 260-pound forward as he averaged 10.3 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds while shooting .579 in OU's 16 conference games. He has started 31 of 32 games (yielded to Jozsef Szendrei on Senior Day) and is averaging 9.4 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds on the season, and boasts a league-best .581 mark from the field in 27.8 minutes per contest. A second-team Parade All-American last year, Bookout became just the second freshman under ninth-year OU coach Kelvin Sampson to start the first game of a season (guard Prince Fowler was the other in 1994-95).
MORE ON BOOKOUT
Kevin Bookout's 9.4 points per game marks the highest scoring average by an OU freshman since Jeff Webster's 18.3 in 1990-91. His 5.9 rebounds per outing are the most by a frosh since Ryan Humphrey's 6.5 in 1997-98 and second most since David Johnson's 6.2 in 1983-84. Bookout's scoring and rebounding numbers compare favorably to freshman figures of some of OU's top players over the last decade. Ryan Minor averaged 4.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 1992-93, Eduardo Najera averaged 7.0 and 5.6 in 1996-97 and Hollis Price averaged 7.2 and 2.2 in 1999-2000.
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 performing well from free throw line this season. Through 32 games, the Sooners own a .698 free throw mark, third best in the Big 12.
BIG 12 DOMINANCE
Oklahoma has won 24 of its last 28 games against Big 12 opponents. The Sooners won their final five regular season games last season, earned three victories at the Big 12 Tournament, knocked off Missouri to go to the Final Four, and went 12-4 in league play this year before earning another conference tournament crown. OU's only four losses in the last 28 outings versus league competition were a 48-46 decision at then-No. 24 Oklahoma State on Jan. 13, a 67-61 defeat at then-No. 6 Texas on Feb. 10, a 67-52 loss at Missouri on Feb. 26 and a 76-71 home defeat to then-No. 4 Texas on March 8.
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 finished 15-1 this season, is 356-60 (.856) inside the building since it opened for the 1975-76 campaign. The Sooners are 119-17 (.875) at home under ninth-year head coach Kelvin Sampson and had won 37 straight before losing to Texas in the regular season finale. The 37-game home winning streak was OU's longest since winning 51 in a row in the late 1980s and early 1990s and was the nation's longest streak at the time. It also stands as the longest streak in Big 12 Conference history (Kansas held the previous league record with 33 straight home wins).
Oklahoma has had its share of success on the road under Kelvin Sampson with a 37-22 (.627) record in its last 59 true away contests. In Big 12 play, OU is 33-17 (.660) in its last 50 road contests. The Sooners have finished 5-3 in five of the last six seasons in conference road play and went 6-2 in 1998-99. Kansas (42-14), Oklahoma (34-22) and Texas (32-24) are the only schools with a winning road record since the Big 12 was formed.
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.