March 9, 2000
Ranked 15th in the AP poll and 18th in the ESPN/USA Today version, Oklahoma (24-5 overall, 12-4 Big 12) finished tied with Oklahoma State for third place in the Big 12 race and, because of tiebreaker rules, has earned the No. 3 seed at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament. Iowa State, Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are the top four seeds, respectively, and will not play Thursday. The Sooners will take the court Friday at approximately 8:20 p.m. CST against the winner of Thursday's Missouri (sixth seed) versus Texas Tech (11th seed) contest. If the Sooners win on Friday, they will play a semifinal contest Saturday at approximately 3:20 p.m. Sunday's championship game is slated for a 2 p.m. start.
All of OU's Big 12 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. The Sooners' Friday contest will be televised by ESPN Regional (KOCB Channel 34 in OKC). Saturday's semifinal contests will also be televised by ESPN Regional (KFOR Channel 4 in OKC). Sunday's title contest will be shown nationally by ESPN. Ron Franklin (play-by-play) and Jon Sundvold (analyst) will announce on Sunday.
The Sooners, fresh off a 59-56 comeback win at Oklahoma State Saturday, are playing perhaps their best basketball of the season. Oklahoma has won its last four games and 10 of its last 12 (the two losses were by a combined six points versus Oklahoma State and at Kansas). The team's 12-4 Big 12 record is its best since the conference was formed four years ago.
OKLAHOMA PROBABLE STARTERS
|F||21||Eduardo Najera (6-8, 240, Sr.)||18.5||9.5||2.1|
|C||33||Renzi Stone (6-10, 250, Sr.)||4.6||3.8||1.5|
|G||5||Nolan Johnson (6-4, 215, Jr.)||9.2||4.8||1.7|
|G||10||Hollis Price (6-1, 165, Fr.)||6.7||2.0||3.3|
|G||11||J.R. Raymond (6-2, 175, So.)||14.4||3.6||3.8|
OFF THE BENCH
|G||14||Tim Heskett (6-1, 185, Jr.)||8.0||1.6||1.5|
|G||20||Kelley Newton (6-2, 190, Jr.)||6.0||1.3||0.7|
|C||32||Victor Avila (6-10, 255, Sr.)||5.0||4.1||0.7|
|F||34||Jameel Heywood (6-6, 220, Jr.)||3.4||3.3||0.4|
All-America candidate Eduardo Najera leads Oklahoma in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocked shots. The senior ranks second in the league in scoring (18.5 ppg), second in rebounding (9.5 rpg) and sixth in steals (1.9 spg). He is the only player to rank in the top 10 in all three categories. In league 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 the top 10 in career points (Najera ranks eighth), rebounds (fifth), steals (fourth) and blocked shots (sixth) at OU.
Junior college transfer Nolan Johnson, who poured in a career-high 21 points at Oklahoma State Saturday, has scored in double figures in nine of the last 10 games. He is averaging 12.8 points and 5.8 rebounds, and is shooting .619 from the field during the span. The guard has posted a .500-or-better field goal percentage in 10 of the last 11 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 lately, is averaging 14.0 points, 6.0 assists and 3.0 steals during the team's four-game winning streak. He has 97 assists and just 41 turnovers this year for a clean 2.4 ratio. He has led the team in assists in seven of the last eight games and owns a 3.5 assist/turnover ratio during the span. Price has also made 20 of his last 22 free throw attempts (.909).
Recapping Saturday's Oklahoma State Contest
Oklahoma won for the second straight year in Stillwater, rebounding from a 13-point second-half deficit to claim a 59-56 victory Saturday night at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Nolan Johnson keyed a strong Sooner second half by scoring 15 points after intermission, when OU shot .583 from the field. The Sooners trailed 46-33 with 11 minutes remaining but outscored the Cowboys 26-10 the rest of the game. Johnson, who finished with a game and career-high 21 points, Hollis Price and Kelley Newton accounted for the team's final 26 points. Price finished the contest with 13 points while Newton contributed 11 with the help of a trio of three-pointers. Johnson was also terrific on the defensive end, limiting Big 12 Player-of-the-Year candidate Desmond Mason to just six points, all from the free throw line. Mason was 0-for-8 from the field. Brian Montonati led OSU with 15 points while Joe Adkins added 12. Eduardo Najera was held to nine points but produced game highs in rebounds (eight) and steals (five). The loss for OSU was its first in 15 home games this season.
Oklahoma in the Conference Tournament
The Sooners are 27-19 (.587) in conference postseason action (4-3 in three seasons of the Big 12 format). Oklahoma has participated in eight tournament championship games and has won four crowns. The program's last tournament championship was recorded in 1990 when OU beat Colorado, 92-80. Oklahoma also earned titles in 1979, 1985 and 1988. Head coach Kelvin Sampson is 5-5 in five previous tournament appearances and guided his squad to the championship game two years ago.
Last Year in Kansas City
Oklahoma earned a first-round bye as the No. 4 seed last year in Kansas City and faced No. 5 seed Oklahoma State on Friday afternoon. After sweeping the regular season series against the Cowboys, OU suffered a 60-57 defeat after leading 28-24 at halftime in a tournament quarterfinal contest. Eric Martin led four Sooners in double figures in points with 14 while Eduardo Najera recorded nine rebounds. Oklahoma State advanced to the championship game against Kansas after beating Texas in semifinal action, but dropped a 53-37 decision to the Jayhawks.
Sooners Racking Up the Victories
Oklahoma fashions a 24-5 record heading into the league tournament and has attained its highest ranking (15th in the AP poll) under sixth-year head coach Kelvin Sampson. The 24 victories are already the most by the Sooners under Sampson (OU finished 23-9 in 1994-95, Sampson's first year). They also represent the most regular season wins since the 1988-89 team won 26 prior to the postseason. Iowa State (26) is the only Big 12 team with more victories than the Sooners this season.
The Sooners sport an 18-8 (.692) record in their past 26 Big 12 road contests. OU, which went 6-2 in conference road games last year, finished 5-3 this season with wins over Baylor, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. The average margin of victory in this year's five wins was 11.0 points.
Shooting Tells the Story
Oklahoma is shooting .462 from the field this season (ranks fourth in Big 12), .394 from three-point land (first) and .702 from the free throw line (second). The Sooners are shooting significantly better in their wins than in their losses:
|Category||24 Wins||5 Losses|
|Field Goal Percentage||.481 (677-1408)||.379 (118-311)|
|3-Point Percentage||.409 (199-486)||.324 (36-111)|
|Free Throw Percentage||.723 (310-429)||.598 (52-87)|
Oklahoma enters the Big 12 Tournament with a .462 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 already this year.
OU's Big 12 History
The Sooners now boast a 43-21 (.672) Big 12 record in the league's four years, second only to Kansas' 52-12 (.813) mark. OU finished 9-7 (fifth place) in 1996-97 and 11-5 (tied for second) in each of the last two years. Kelvin Sampson's Big 12 squads have posted a 24-8 league record at home and a 19-13 mark on the road.
Sooner Guards Shooting .417 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 29 games, the Sooners have made 235-of-597 trey attempts for a Big 12-leading .394 mark. Sooner guards are shooting a stout .417 on the year. Here's a look at the statistics of OU's four three-point shooting guards:
Turnovers Few and Far Between
The Sooners have done a superb job of handling the basketball this season, as evidenced by their 12.5 turnovers per game, the lowest average in the Big 12 (Missouri ranks second with 13.4). Oklahoma has committed more turnovers than its opponents in just three of 29 games this year. OU also owns the second best assist-turnover ratio in the conference (1.3).
OU's Free Throw Attempts Down
Oklahoma is averaging just 17.8 free throw attempts per game this season to rank 11th in the Big 12 (Kansas State averages 17.7), and averaged just 16.8 in league games. The Sooners have averaged fewer charity tries just once in the past 20 years (17.3 in 1995-96).
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...
Najera Fourth In CBS' Wooden Award Watch
Eduardo Najera rated as the fourth-leading candidate to win the 2000 John R. Wooden Award, given to the nation's most outstanding player, according to CBS SportsLine (www.cbssportsline.com) on Feb. 25. He was the Big 12's highest rated player on the list.
|1. Kenyon Martin||Cincinnati|
|2. Troy Murphy||Notre Dame|
|3. Chris Carrawell||Duke|
|4. Eduardo Najera||Oklahoma|
|5. Marcus Fizer||Iowa State|
|6. Chris Mihm||Texas|
|7. Mateen Cleaves||Michigan State|
|8. Khalid El-Amin||Connecticut|
|9. Desmond Mason||Oklahoma State|
|10. Loren Woods||Arizona|
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 is coming off a career-high 21-point performance against Oklahoma State, is averaging 12.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in OU's last 10 contests and has upped his season averages to 9.2 and 4.8, respectively. During the 10-game span, Johnson is also averaging 31.1 minutes per outing. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he is shooting .794 from the free throw line this season and .575 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 (14.4 ppg). He also averages 3.0 three-pointers per game (ranks second), leads the team in assists (3.8 apg) and is third in steals (1.4 spg). A starter in each game, he has made 86 three-pointers on 206 attempts (.417) and has scored in double digits in 23 of 29 outings (scored nine three times).
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 15 of 16 league 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 has totaled 15 points three other times in Big 12 play. At Texas A&M last Wednesday, Price contributed 15 points, seven assists and five steals. In OU's last four games, all victories, he is averaging 14.0 points, 6.0 assists and 3.0 steals while shooting .595 from the field.
The New Orleans, La., native owns the Big 12's third-best assist/turnover ratio (2.4) and has recorded three or more assists 15 times on the year (he has led OU in the category in seven of the last eight games). On the season, Price averages 3.3 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 1.6 steals per outing and has 14 multiple-steal games to his credit. He is averaging 33.4 minutes over OU's last six contests.
Stone Effective From the Field
Senior forward/center Renzi Stone shot .638 from the field in Big 12 games and sports a .574 season mark. The lone Oklahoman on the OU roster, the Tulsa native owns a .514 career field goal percentage. He has started all 29 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 (.419), is shooting .416 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 (177) and ranks fifth in attempts (422). Terry Evans owns the school record with 259 career conversions.
Heskett Dependable with the Ball
Tim Heskett, who averages 21.0 minutes per game, has committed just 15 turnovers this season. That's an average of one turnover every 41 minutes. The junior guard leads the Big 12 with a 2.9 assist/turnover ratio and also ranks ninth with 2.4 three-point makes per contest. Heskett averages 8.0 points per game to rank fourth on the team.
OU Boasts Nation's Fourth-Longest Postseason Streak
Oklahoma has made 18 consecutive postseason appearances (14 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 528-237 (.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 127-60 (.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)|
Coach Sampson on Television
This season, Oklahoma basketball fans can catch Head Coach Kelvin Sampson on television twice a week with "Inside Sooner Basketball with Kelvin Sampson" and "Sooner Basketball 2000." The shows will give viewers an insider's look at the OU program and feature highlights, interviews and Coach Sampson's insights.
Inside Sooner Basketball with Kelvin Sampson
Hosted by veteran Oklahoma City television sports anchor Bill Teegins, "Inside Sooner Basketball with Kelvin Sampson" airs Fridays at 2:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Southwest. The half-hour show can be seen in Oklahoma City on KWTV Channel 9 Saturdays at 11 a.m. and in Tulsa on TCI Cablevision Channel 9 Fridays at 6 p.m.
Sooner Basketball 2000
"Sooner Basketball 2000" is hosted by Steve Neumann, director of broadcasting at OU. The one-hour show airs in Oklahoma City Sundays at 7 p.m. on NewsNow 53 and later that night at 1:45 a.m. on KWTV Channel 9.
1999-00 Big 12 Standings
(Final Regular Season)
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)