NORMAN, Okla. -- Down almost the entire contest, the Crimson Team pulled out a 99-96 win in OU's fourth annual Legends Alumni Game at Lloyd Noble Center Saturday afternoon.
Ebi Ere, who played on OU's 2002 Final Four and 2003 Elite Eight teams and still plays professionally overseas, led all scorers for the second consecutive year. He finished with 23 points for the Crimson squad on 10 field goal makes, three of them 3-pointers.
"It's always fun just to be in this gym again," said Ere, who scored an alumni-game-record 34 points last year in a victory for the Cream team. "The atmosphere is great. It's always good. I can remember playing games in here and it's just so much fun. The energy (today) was just an energy I've never played with since I left."
Crimson teammate Aaron McGhee, returning to campus for the first time since his senior year of 2001-02, scored 15 points. Tyler Neal added 14, just five months after winding up his OU career.
"The first half we wanted to take it a little easy, but they came out and they jumped on us," said McGhee, who has also played professionally since his Sooner days. "The second half we picked it up a little bit and started playing for real. That was a lot of fun."
Current OU strength and conditioning coach Jozsef "Yo-Yo" Szendrei registered a double-double with a team-high 19 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. He accomplished that despite what he explained as a difficult matchup for most of the day.
"It was great to compete with ex-teammates and against ex-teammates," said Szendrei, a member of OU's 2001, 2002 and 2003 Big 12 Tournament champion teams. "I'm not sure everybody knows that I guarded Aaron McGhee on the block every day in practice for two years. So I was hoping to avoid having to guard him today, but that didn't happen. It was like the good old days.
"It's interesting how competitive it got out there at the end today, but that's the spirit. That's why the program is where it is right now."
Cream squad member Brent Price, who hit four first-half 3-pointers and finished the game with 12 points, indicated after the contest that the competitive fire doesn't go away for former players.
"We shot the ball really well in the first half and that was really keeping us in it," said Price, who holds the Lloyd Noble Center scoring record of 56 points (set against Loyola-Marymount in the 1990-91 season). "They got smart and started picking us up a little deeper and we weren't able to get those open looks. But it was a lot of fun. We had our shot at it. Old players always hate to lose no matter what you're doing. But it was a lot of fun, as bad as I hate to be on the losing end."
Terry Evans (1990-93) coached the victorious Crimson team while Bo Overton (1980-83) directed the Cream squad.
Saturday's game capped a weekend that also featured Friday's Tip In Club Golf Classic and a Wayman Tisdale Scholarship Fund Dinner on the Lloyd Noble Center main floor. The 40 members of OU's 1,000-point club were honored.
FINAL POINT TOTALS
Crimson Team (99)
Ebi Ere - 23
Aaron McGhee - 15
Tyler Neal - 14
Sam Grooms - 11
C.J. Washington - 11
Kermit Holmes - 7
Barry Honore - 7
Chris Black - 5
Clifford Johnson - 4
Bill Dutcher - 2
Cream Team (96)
Jozsef Szendrei - 19
Tony Crocker - 18
Cade Davis - 15
Brent Price - 12
Beau Gerber - 10
Michael Neal - 9
Bryatt Vann - 6
Darryl "Choo" Kennedy - 4
T.J. Franklin - 3
On reconnecting with former teammates:
“We’re always proud and happy and privileged to have all these people back who we don’t see for many years. For example, Aaron McGhee, I did not get to see for 11 years. I haven’t seen him since he left, and when I picked him up from the airport it was like he left yesterday. It's just a brotherhood for life. That camaraderie is awesome. We can create that in college and that’s unique.”
On playing in the alumni game after graduating just three months ago:
“It’s weird being on the other side, but it’s fun. It’s fun to be able to come back and be with all the guys and see the new team and see all the coaches. Golf yesterday was a lot of fun. It’s a great community of people and an awesome fraternity to be in just with former OU basketball players. I’m very proud of that.”
On his Crimson team rallying for the win in the second half:
“The whole game we were talking about just staying in it, getting stops. That was kind of hard at times, as you could tell. But we stayed in it and started hitting some shots late and pulled it out.”
On alumni reunion weekend:
“It’s great. Coach Kruger, since he’s come in, they’ve brought this back and they’ve reconnected with the players and legends of the past. I think it’s great. You don’t know who you are until you look at the past and see who you’ve been, and it’s just so much fun for all the players and hopefully the fans to reconnect every year. It’s also a great way to start off a new season for the young players.”
On being back at the LNC for the first time since 2002:
“It brings back a lot of memories; just being out here on this court again. I remember the last time I was here was senior night against Iowa State and there was so much emotion that night. So it brought back a lot of memories.”
On reunion weekend:
“This has been amazing. I got to meet Elton Davis from the 1947 team. Just to meet all the greats that you only hear about or read about when you’re here, and to actually put a face to a name is just amazing. I’ll definitely cherish these moments forever.
“I thought about it. Why wasn’t this done before? It speaks volumes about Coach Kruger as a person to bring back the tradition and bring all the guys back. We’ll definitely remember everything that’s happened this weekend. He does it every year and I’m going to try to make it back every year.”
Darryl "Choo" Kennedy
On why the Cream team lost the lead in the second half:
“We had all the old, fat guys! I mean, I know I ran out of gas and I didn’t play but two minutes.”
On the Cream team squandering the lead:
“We made our run too early, I guess. They were pushing it on us and they were hitting some shots. We got a little complacent on the offensive end and they hit some free throws on us and that’s what won the game.”
On alumni weekend as a whole:
“Getting back on the floor, I started to get butterflies and get nervous like I normally did before home games. It was a good feeling to be back out here in front of fans. As far as the entire event is concerned, it was one of the best things I’ve been a part of as far as being an alum. I think it’s great what they do for the program and the new guys coming in. Like Coach Kruger said last night, it shows the current guys how much pride we have in being here and being a part of this university. So it’s a great thing and I hope I can come back here next year.”
On alumni weekend as a whole:
“I think it’s a great weekend. All these guys get away from their regular home life and get to come back and see past friends and past players and coaches. I think it’s a blessing to be here and it shows how much Oklahoma is like a family and everybody is united together, and how everybody shows support of Oklahoma Basketball.”
On the job Coach Kruger has done with the event:
“That’s how Coach Kruger is. He finds ways to make people feel special and feel wanted and needed. He does a good job. (Men’s basketball administrative assistant) Renee Forney does a great job. I know she and others put in a lot of work organizing everything. He just tries to make everyone feel like they’re at home and he does a great job at it.”