Jan. 10, 2003
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Ranked ninth in this week's AP and ESPN/USA Today polls, Oklahoma (9-2) will face unranked Colorado (10-3) on Saturday at 3 p.m. CST inside Lloyd Noble Center in Norman. The game, the first of the Big 12 season for both schools, will air live on the Sooner Basketball Radio Network (flagship KOMA 1520 AM in Oklahoma City, KFAQ 1170 AM in Tulsa) with Bob Barry, Sr. (play-by-play) and Mike Houck (analyst) calling the action. The matcup will be televised regionally on ESPN Plus (KOCB Ch. 34 in OKC, KJRH Ch. 2 in Tulsa) with Fred White (play-by-play) and Paul Splittorff (analyst) announcing.
A limited number of upper level tickets are still available and can be purchased for $20 apiece from the OU Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 456-4668 or (405) 325-2424. In the event of a sellout, a limited number of restricted admission tickets will go on sale Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Lloyd Noble Center north and east ticket windows. Restricted admission tickets also cost $20 each.
AVERAGES COLORADO PROJECTED STARTERS PPG RPG F 30 Michel Morandais (6-5, 200, Jr.) 16.3 5.8 F 34 Stephane Pelle (6-8, 250, Sr.) 11.3 9.7 C 13 David Harrison (7-0, 250, So.) 16.1 9.0 G 42 Antoine McGee (5-10, 180, Fr.) 2.9 1.5 G 43 Blair Wilson (6-6, 220, Jr.) 13.4 3.2
OKLAHOMA PROJECTED STARTERS PPG RPG F 34 Kevin Bookout (6-8, 260, Fr.) 8.3 5.4 C 21 Jabahri Brown (6-10, 210, Jr.) 7.3 5.8 G 2 Ebi Ere (6-5, 215, Sr.) 18.3 5.7 G 4 Quannas White (6-1, 190, Sr.) 6.4 3.2 G 10 Hollis Price (6-1, 170, Sr.) 18.5 2.2
STATISTICAL COMPARISON Category Oklahoma Colorado Overall Record 9-2 10-3 Points Per Game 75.8 79.6 Opponent Points Per Game 59.9 68.5 Rebounds Per Game 37.8 42.5 Opponent Rebounds Per Game 30.5 33.6 Field Goal Pct. .459 .480 Opponent Field Goal Pct. .418 .400 3-Point Pct. .347 .329 Opponent 3-Point Pct. .378 .321 Free Throw Pct. .751 .670 Personal Fouls Per Game 18.1 15.8 Assists Per Game 15.0 15.0 Turnovers Per Game 12.3 14.9 Blocked Shots Per Game 3.4 5.5 Steals Per Game 9.7 6.8
The Sooners are coming off a pair of important victories, a 60-58 win over then-No. 14 Michigan State last Saturday in Oklahoma City and a 73-63 home triumph over No. 3 Connecticut on Tuesday. The win over the Huskies pushed OU's Lloyd Noble Center winning streak to 30 games, the second longest home streak in the nation (BYU has won 42 straight). Oklahoma held a 20-point lead (51-31) against UConn but hit a dry spell and watched the Huskies close to within five (55-50) with 5:03 remaining. The Sooners were stellar at the free throw line, however, making 18 of their 19 attempts in the final 4:43. Hollis Price was 10-for-10 at the line and finished with a career-high 33 points. Ebi Ere's 13 points marked OU's only other double-digit scoring performance.
Price, the Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, has taken over OU's season scoring average honors and is now averaging 18.5 points per contest. He is also averaging 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals per outing, and has made a team-high 25 three-pointers. Price has made 20 of his 21 free throw attempts over the last two games and ranks second in the league with a .923 (60-for-65) season free throw mark. Ere, who has led the team in scoring in seven of 11 games, averages 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per outing. Senior point guard Quannas White endured a scare against Connecticut when he left the game with a sprained MCL in his left knee with 11:22 remaining in the first half. White didn't return until 3:41 left in the game and was key in stopping the UConn rally. He leads the team with 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game and sports a superb 3.8 assist-to-turnover ratio to lead the Big 12 (just 1.0 turnover per game). White is also averaging 6.4 points per game -- 8.0 over the last six outings.
Freshman forward Kevin Bookout averages 8.3 points and 5.4 rebounds while junior center Jabahri Brown averages 7.3 points and a team-high 5.8 boards. Brown has blocked 14 shots over the last five games.
One of the hotter teams in the Big 12 Conference, Colorado has won six straight and eight of its last nine. The Buffs are coming off a 93-72 home win over rival Colorado State on Tuesday, a game in which CU shot .574 from the field and committed only nine turnovers. The team's three losses this year have come on the road against New Mexico State (75-71), at home to Georgia (71-70) and at Rice (80-61).
Junior guard/forward Michel Morandais scored a game-high 24 points and had seven assists against Colorado State. He leads the team with 16.3 points per game and also averages 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists. From Guadeloupe, French West Indies, Morandais is shooting .497 from the field. Sophomore center David Harrison, who is 7-0 and 250 pounds, averages 16.1 points, 9.0 rebounds and a Big 12-best 3.1 blocks per contest. He also shoots .616 from the field to rank third in the conference. Junior guard/forward Blair Wilson is the Buffs' top three-point threat, making 37 treys on the year (.352). Wilson averages 13.4 points per ballgame. Senior forward Stephane Pelle is a rebounding machine. At 6-8, he averages 11.3 points per outing and ranks third in the league with his 9.7 boards per contest.
In his eighth season as Colorado's head coach, Ricardo Patton owns a 115-94 (.550) record at the school. He has guided CU to an NCAA Tournament appearnace (1997) and a pair of NIT showings (1999, 2000).
COLORADO SERIES HISTORY
Oklahoma leads the overall series with Colorado, 81-45, and is 41-3 against the Buffaloes in the last 44 meetings. The Sooners have won their last 19 games against CU inside Lloyd Noble Center and have claimed 31 of the last 32 outcomes in Norman. Kelvin Sampson is 11-1 against Colorado as OU's head coach and is 5-0 versus the Buffs at home. His Sooners won in Boulder last year, 82-71, as Hollis Price scored a game-high 23 points (with the help of four three-pointers) and had a career-high five steals. Quannas White, Jason Detrick and Aaron McGhee chipped in with 12 points apiece.
Oklahoma is 7-1 in conference-opening contests under head coach Kelvin Sampson (2-0 Big Eight, 5-1 Big 12) with the lone loss coming two years ago at Iowa State, 100-80. The Sooners are also 7-1 under Sampson in their first home game of the league season (OU fell to Texas Tech by a 67-62 count at Lloyd Noble Center in 1996-97). This will mark the third time under Sampson the Sooners have started conference play against the Buffaloes. Oklahoma won 98-83 in Norman in 1995 and 69-68 in Boulder in 1998.
Kelvin Sampson said prior to this season that OU's schedule would be the most difficult he's ever played. One glance at the Sooners' late December and early January stretch and it's easy to see why. Oklahoma faced Mississippi State (now ranked No. 7/8) Dec. 28, knocked off Michigan State (No. 25/20) Jan. 4 and beat Connecticut (No. 3/3) in Norman on Tuesday. The Sooners have already faced Alabama (No. 4/4), and four future Big 12 opponents are now ranked in the AP top 25. Oklahoma State, OU's opponent this Monday, is 26th in the AP poll.
PAINTING A PICTURE
Successful shooting does not always translate into victories, but it sure helps. In Oklahoma's nine wins this season, the team is shooting .478 from the field (257-for-538). In its two losses, however, it has shot just .364 (39-for-107).
A TOP-10 HIT
The Sooners are ranked ninth in the current AP top-25 poll, making it 20 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.
Senior guards Hollis Price (18.5) and Ebi Ere (18.3) are averaging a combined 35.8 points per game, a figure that ranks second among Big 12 tandems. Texas Tech's Cory Carr (23.1) and Tony Battie (18.8) averaged 41.9 per game in 1996-97 to set the league standard while OU's Nate Erdmann (20.5) and Corey Brewer (17.5) averaged 38.0 combined points per game the same season to rank fourth on the league's all-time chart.
OU's starting guard trio of Ebi Ere, Hollis Price and Quannas White undoubtedly forms one of the nation's top backcourts. The threesome has accounted for 57 percent of the team's points, 61 percent of its assists and 46 percent of its steals. The three guards have also made 67 percent of OU's free throws on the year and have taken 59 percent of its foul shots.
HEAVY IN THE BACK(COURT)
Sooner backcourt members have scored 573 of the team's 834 points this year. That means 69 percent of OU's scoring has come from its guards. The guards have also registered 135 of the team's 165 assists (82 percent).
In the last seven games, Oklahoma has limited Hartford, Coppin State, Georgia State, Mississippi State, UNC Asheville, Michigan State and Connecticut to a collective .383 field goal mark, dropping the team's field goal percentage defense figure from .480 prior to the Hartford game to .418 now. Also, OU averaged just 1.0 blocked shot per game in its first four contests but is averaging 4.7 over its last seven games.
OU BOARDING SCHOOL
Since being outrebounded by Alabama (38-32) and UC Irvine (31-29) in their first two games of the year, the Sooners have outboarded their last eight opponents by an average of 9.8 caroms per contest. Against Prairie View A&M, OU posted a 50-25 rebounding advantage (including a 27-1 margin in offensive rebounds). On the season, Oklahoma is outrebounding its opponents by a 7.3 margin per game.
Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson has long stressed protecting the basketball 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 rank first in the Big 12 this season with only 12.3 turnovers per game.
JOHNNIE COME LATELY
Sophomore forward Johnnie Gilbert played in the first two games of the year and then sat out the next three due to injury. The left-hander has averaged 5.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in six games since his return and is 15-for-22 (.682) from the field during the span. Gilbert is now averaging 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds over his eight games. His .567 season field goal percentage is bettern than his .438 free throw mark.
ERE STELLAR AT START
Guard Ebi Ere has started his senior season with a bang. The 6-5, 215-pounder led the Sooners in scoring in seven of 11 games and ranks fifth in the Big 12 with his 18.8 points per outing. He also averages 5.8 rebounds to rank second on the team. Last year he shot .427 from the field but so far this year he sports a .497 figure. Ere also averages 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per outing. Against Princeton in the Sooner Invitational championship game, he registered 27 points (two shy of his then-career high), seven rebounds, a career-high six assists, a blocked shot and two steals. Versus Hartford, he set a career high with 33 points and added eight boards, three assists and a steal in 28 minutes. Ere has scored in double figures in all but the Mississippi State game on Dec. 28 (he had nine points).
One of the best guards to ever wear an Oklahoma uniform, senior Hollis Price is averaging 18.5 points, 2.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game this season. He has already passed 10 players (Corey Brewer, Bobby Jack, Garfield Heard, David Little, Aaron Curry, Al Beal, Mookie Blaylock, David Johnson, Terry Evans and Harvey Grant) on the school's all-time scoring chart this season. Price now stands 12th on the career list with 1,412 points and needs 50 points to tie Chucky Barnett for 11th. If he duplicates last year's 577-point performance this season, Price will wind up seventh on the career scoring list. The New Orleans native also ranks third in career free throw percentage (.845), third in three-point field goals (172), third in three-point field goal attempts (468), fifth in minutes played (3,488), sixth in steals (187), seventh in assists (399) and ninth in steals per game (1.7).
Price was named Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year by league coaches and media and is also a candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards. Additionally, he picked up preseason All-America honors from Playboy. Price averaged 16.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game last year to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors, as well as third-team All-America recognition from The Sporting News. He concluded the season by earning Big 12 Tournament and NCAA West Regional MVP honors.
Said OU head coach Kelvin Sampson, "To me, he's our heart and soul. Hollis embodies what we want in a Sooner basketball player. The way he practices, the way he carries himself off the court, the way he performs in the classroom, his effort and his pride are impressive. There are very few things in the future that I dread, but I can honestly tell you that I'm really, really dreading senior night. I'm going to really enjoy every minute I'm with Hollis this year because I don't know when I'll get another one like him."
THE FUTURE IS NOW
While preseason publications raved about OU's experienced veterans, fanfare about the team's newcomers paled in comparison. Four freshmen have seen significant minutes in non-conference play. Forward Kevin Bookout has started all 11 games and is averaging 8.3 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting .562 from the field in 27.7 minutes per contest. He became just the second freshman under ninth-year OU coach Kelvin Sampson to start the first game of a season. Guard De'Angelo Alexander is averaging 5.7 points and 3.7 boards in 18.0 minutes per outing and registered a career-high 14 points Dec. 30 against UNC Asheville. Center Larry Turner is averaging 1.3 points and 1.5 boards in 9.2 minutes per contest. Redshirt freshman forward Matt Gipson is averaging 3.9 points and 2.3 rebounds in 8.3 minutes per outing. Collectively, the quartet has scored 189 points (17.2 per game) and grabbed 125 boards (11.4 per game).
In eight-plus years under Kelvin Sampson, the Sooners sport a 107-10 record (.915) when scoring at least 80 points. OU was 15-0 under the circumstance last year and is 5-0 this season. The Sooners have won 46 of their last 48 games (.958) when scoring 80 or more.
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 off to a great free throw shooting start this season. Through 11 games, the Sooners own a .751 free throw mark, tops in the Big 12.
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 is 8-0 this season, is 349-59 (.855) inside the building since it opened for the 1975-76 campaign. The Sooners are 112-16 (.875) at home under ninth-year head coach Kelvin Sampson and have won 30 straight. The 30-game home winning streak is OU's longest since winning 51 in a row in the late 1980s and early 1990s and is the nation's second longest current streak (BYU has won 42 straight).
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.
"I've never been into recruiting rankings," said OU head coach Kelvin Sampson. "I look at how the players a team recruits fill the needs of that team. We will lose three starting guards after this season in Quannas White, Hollis Price and Ebi Ere. Lavender, Foust and McKenzie will not only form a great backcourt, but they're all freshmen. And Longar will be a freshman in the frontcourt. He's an investment who possesses two things you can't teach -- size and athleticism. These kids all come from great high school programs and learn from great coaches."
OU SECURES BEST PRESEASON AP RANKING
OU's No. 3 preseason AP ranking marked its highest ever to start a season. The Sooners' previous best AP ranking heading into a season was No. 5, in both 1984-85 and 1988-89. Oklahoma finished both of those seasons ranked No. 4 in the AP poll under head coach Billy Tubbs.
OU RANKED NO. 1 BY ESPN.COM
ESPN.com ranked the Sooners No. 1 in the nation in its preseason power poll Nov. 13. Oklahoma is in front of No. 2 Arizona, No. 3 Kansas, No. 4 Pittsburgh and No. 5 Florida. Said ESPN.com's Jay Bilas, "The Sooners are the toughest and hardest nosed team in the nation. Kelvin Sampson has a durable and resilient group that is deep and athletic, and has embraced Sampson's style of playing smashmouth basketball on both ends of the floor. Oklahoma sends four athletes to the offensive glass, rebounds the ball with ferocity, gets into your chest and defends with an aggressive and physical demeanor, and has the mental make-up to win the national championship."
OU BOASTS NATION'S SECOND-LONGEST POSTSEASON STREAK
OU has participated in either the NCAA Tournament or National Invitation Tournament in each of the last 21 seasons. During that stretch the Sooners have made the NCAA field 17 times and have played in the NIT on four occasions. The 21-year streak is the second longest in the nation. OU trails only Indiana, which has made 25 straight postseason appearances.
EIGHT STRAIGHT...AND COUNTING
Oklahoma has qualified for the NCAA Tournament in each of Kelvin Sampson's eight years in Norman. Only eight other schools have made the "Big Dance" each of the past eight seasons (Arizona, Cincinnati, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Stanford and UCLA).
MODEL OF CONSISTENCY
Oklahoma has registered a winning record in 25 of its last 26 seasons. No other Big 12 team can boast as many winning campaigns since the 1975-76 season as the Sooners. OU has posted a 588-251 (.701) record over the past 26 years.
THE LAST THREE YEARS
Over the last three seasons, Oklahoma has amassed an 84-19 (.816) record, good for the nation's fourth best winning percentage and fourth most wins during the span:
By Winning Percentage
1. Duke (.880)
2. Cincinnati (.825)
3. Stanford (.821)
4. Oklahoma (.816)
1. Duke (95-13)
2. Cincinnati (85-18)
2. Tulsa (85-23)
4. Oklahoma (84-19)
UNDER KELVIN SAMPSON ENTERING 2002-03...