Picked ninth in the preseason Big 12 coaches’ poll, the 2006-07 Oklahoma men’s basketball team finished in a tie for seventh place after posting a 16-15 overall record and a 6-10 conference mark under first-year head coach Jeff Capel. The Sooners, who saw their nation’s-best 25-year postseason streak halted, lost seven of their final eight games (four to ranked teams) after starting 15-8 overall and 6-4 in Big 12 play. Following is a list of notes and accomplishments from the 2006-07 campaign:
Oklahoma posted its 26th consecutive winning season, good for the longest streak among Big 12 schools (Kansas ranks second with 24 and Oklahoma State ranks third with 19).
The Sooners held opponents to just 59.6 points a game, the lowest figure by an OU team since the 1977-78 season (a span of 29 years).
Opponents shot just .406 from the field on the year, the second-lowest mark since the 1960-61 campaign (a stretch of 46 seasons).
OU finished the year with a +4.5 rebounding margin (ranked third in the conference) despite playing most of the year with only one player taller than 6-7.
Nate Carter earned third-team All-Big 12 accolades.
Carter broke Hollis Price’s school record for consecutive free throw makes in a season by converting 37 attempts in a row (Price’s record was 36).
Longar Longar was voted to the Big 12’s All-Improved Team by a panel of sportswriters who regularly cover the league.
Michael Neal and Kellen Sampson were first-team Academic All-Big 12 selections while Taylor Griffin and Austin Johnson were second-team picks. Neal was also a first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honoree.
POSTSEASON STREAK COMES TO AN END
Oklahoma did not qualify for postseason play for the first time since the 1980-81 season, Billy Tubbs’ first year as Sooners’ head coach. OU had participated in the postseason in each of the previous 25 seasons (20 NCAA and five NIT appearances), good for the longest streak in Division I.
BIG 12's CURRENT CONSECUTIVE WINNING SEASONS STREAKS
1. Oklahoma (26)
2. Kansas (24)
3. Oklahoma State (19)
4. Texas (9)
5. Kansas State (3)
6. Nebraska, Texas A&M (2)
8. Missouri, Texas Tech (1)
(Baylor, Colorado and Iowa State had losing records this season)
BARNES HIRED BY GEORGIA STATE
OU assistant coach Rod Barnes accepted the head coaching job at Georgia State on March 19, less than one year after being hired by Jeff Capel. Barnes, the 2001 Naismith National Coach of the Year at Mississippi, spent eight years as the Rebels’ head coach before joining the Oklahoma family. Said Capel, “He was a big help to me and to our program because of his experience, especially in a major conference. Everyone affiliated with Oklahoma basketball learned a lot from him not just about basketball, but about life because of who he is. He’ll be missed.”
Oklahoma avenged a 58-51 loss in Ames on Feb. 13 (the teams’ only regular season meeting).
The game marked just the fourth first-round victory by a No. 9 seed in the 11-year history of the Big 12 Championship.
The Sooners led for 39 minutes and 14 seconds of the 40-minute game. Iowa State took its only lead at 56-55 with 4:37 remaining but was outscored 13-7 down the stretch.
OU led 35-23 at halftime and by as many as 14 in the second half. It won despite tying a season low with 18 field goals.
Nate Carter registered game highs of 22 points and nine rebounds. He was 12-for-13 from the free throw line.
Tony Crocker posted his second straight double-figure scoring performance after being held to fewer than 10 points in 13 of the previous 14 outings. His 15 points were his most since scoring 16 against Colorado in the second Big 12 game of the year (Jan. 10).
Taylor Griffin scored in double figures for the second time in three games after going the previous 11 contests without reaching double digits. He also grabbed seven rebounds in his season-high 36 minutes.
OU’s eight turnovers tied a season low. Its 27 free throw makes were a season high and its 34 attempts tied a season high.
Michael Neal, the only Sooner to start all 16 conference games, did not play due to a stomach virus.
BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTERFINALS: KANSAS 64, OU 47
Kansas led by just two at halftime (28-26) but the Sooners were only 4-for-20 (.200) from the field after intermission.
Oklahoma shot a season-low .313 for the game and its 15 field goals were also a season low.
OU won the rebounding battle in the first half, 20-14, but settled for a 34-34 tie on the game. Kansas entered the game as the Big 12’s best rebounding team (+8.2 margin per game). Nine of OU’s 10 offensive rebounds came in the first half.
Longar Longar’s 13 points and 14 rebounds marked his seventh double-double of the year and came after averaging 3.5 points and 4.0 boards over the previous six games.
Longar’s 14 rebounds were the most by a Sooner in the Big 12 Championship since Aaron McGhee had 15 in the 2002 semifinals. The 14 boards also tied as the most in this year’s event.
Tony Crocker played a team-high 32 minutes, his most since Jan. 17 in a win over Nebraska.
The OU bench outscored Kansas’ 30-20 but the Jayhawks posted a 42-20 advantage in points in the paint.
Freshman walk-on Beau Gerber scored a career-high five points in less than two minutes of playing time. He made his lone field goal attempt and was 3-for-3 from the free throw line. Gerber was OU’s second leading scorer after halftime.
CARTER’S TURNAROUND LEADS TO THIRD-TEAM ALL-BIG 12 RECOGNITION
In what had to be one of the most remarkable in-season turnarounds in college basketball on the year, senior Nate Carter parlayed his increased minutes since the start of Big 12 play into third-team all-league honors. 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. 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 tallied 307 over the final 19.
MORE ON CARTER
Carter scored in double figures in 17 of OU’s final 19 games.
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 10 of the final 16 contests against league opponents.
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 paced the Big 12 in free throw shooting (all games) with his .865 season figure. He made 87 of his last 94 attempts (.926) against league opponents.
Including his freshman and sophomore seasons at UC Riverside, Carter tallied 1,343 career points. His final career averages were 12.2 points and 5.2 rebounds. He shot .492 from the field, .356 from beyond the arc and .804 from the free throw line.
After averaging a team-high 14.8 points a game and shooting .495 from 3-point range in Big 12 play as a junior in 2005-06 when he was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, guard Michael Neal became the primary defensive focus of OU’s opponents this season. As a result, Neal’s numbers were slightly off those of a year ago. The senior averaged 10.0 points this season while shooting .310 from beyond the arc. Here are some career notes on Neal:
Neal finished his career with 136 3-pointers in 55 games for an average of 2.5 per contest.
In two Big 12 seasons, Neal posted a combined .429 figure from beyond the arc and averaged 3.0 treys per game.
Neal made at least three 3-pointers in a game 22 times in his 55 career outings and at least five treys on seven occasions.
Neal set a Big 12 record by averaging 3.9 3-point makes in conference play as a junior.
Neal made 26 3-pointers over a four-game span in February of his junior season (6.5 a contest).
Neal was one of nine national finalists for the V Foundation Comeback Award (he underwent brain surgery his freshman year in junior college after a nasal infection spread beneath his skull).
After playing limited minutes the last two years behind All-Big 12 big men Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout, junior center Longar Longar took 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. As a junior this season, Longar averaged 10.4 points per game and team highs of 7.1 rebounds (ranked eighth in Big 12) and 1.4 blocks (ranked sixth). He also sported a team-best .553 field goal mark.
Longar registered his seventh career double-double (all this season) when he logged 13 points and 14 rebounds against No. 2 Kansas in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals. He posted three double-doubles in a four-game span in February: 19 points and 14 rebounds against Texas Tech (Feb. 3), 12 points and 12 rebounds at Baylor (Feb. 10), and 20 points (all in the second half) and 12 rebounds at Iowa State (Feb. 13). 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, he 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 scored more than twice as many points this year (301) than he scored over his first two seasons combined (127).
Freshman Keith Clark sustained torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee during first-half action against SMU on Dec. 28. He underwent surgery Jan. 11 and missed the rest of the season. The 6-8, 245-pound forward from Oklahoma City came off the bench in each of his 11 games 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.
ON THE DEFENSIVE
The Sooners’ defense was suffocating at times during the year, as evidenced by opponents’ 59.6 points per game and .406 combined field goal percentage. The last time Oklahoma gave up less than 59.6 points per contest for an entire season was in 1977-78 (58.2 ppg). OU opponents have shot worse than .406 for a season just one time (.404 in 1998-99) since the 1960-61 campaign a span of 46 years.
No opponent scored more than 80 points against OU this year and Texas (.547 on Jan. 13) and Kansas State (.532 on March 3) were the only foes to shoot .500 or better from the field. The Sooners held 12 of their opponents under .400 shooting.
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. Including the Big 12 Championship, they posted a .782 free throw mark (186-for-238) over their last 13 games against league competition. OU shot .720 from the charity stripe on the season, its third best figure over the last 10 years.
Oklahoma ranked third in the Big 12 Conference with its +4.5 rebounding margin per game and was outrebounded just nine times in 31 contests on the season (it happened five times in the last eight games). The importance of rebounding is illustrated in the fact that OU was 14-4 when it outboarded its opponents and 1-11 when it didn’t. In their victories, the Sooners outrebounded their foes by 9.8 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 outings. OU averaged just 12.6 turnovers per conference contest to rank fourth in the Big 12. The Sooners were 11-3 on the year when committing fewer turnovers than their opponents.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WINNING AND LOSING
In its 15 wins this year OU outrebounded its opponents by 9.8 a game. In its 15 losses it got outboarded by 1.0.
OU shot .488 from the field in its wins but only .378 in its defeats.
Opponents shot just .350 from the field in OU’s wins while they posted a .469 figure in OU’s losses.
Longar Longar averaged 13.7 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting .621 from the field in the Sooners’ wins. In the team’s defeats he averaged just 6.8 points and 6.3 boards while shooting .443.
Interestingly, OU shot .705 from the free throw line in its wins and .739 in its losses.
Lloyd Noble Center has been overly kind to the Sooners, as they have won 43 of the last 49 games and 98 of the last 109 in the building. OU is 410-69 (.856) in LNC since it opened for the 1975-76 campaign and has posted home winning streaks of 51 games (1987-90) and 37 games (2001-03). The 37-game streak is a Big 12 Conference record.
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
Following are notes about Oklahoma in its 16 games at Lloyd Noble Center this year...
Oklahoma held opponents to 52.8 points a contest (six foes scored less than 50 points). It outscored its opponents 71.4 to 52.8 at Lloyd Noble Center (a margin of 18.6 points a game).
The Sooners shot .464 at home while opponents shot .367.
OU outboarded visiting foes by a 38.1 to 31.1 count (+7.0).
Seven of Tony Crocker’s 11 double-digit scoring games came at Lloyd Noble (he also had a nine-point game at LNC).
Austin Johnson shot .441 from 3-point range (26-for-59) and sported a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Opponents racked up 255 turnovers (15.9 average) to just 153 assists (9.6 average).
The 2006-07 season marked 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 1,445-924 (.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).