Ere, Sooners join the elite

Oklahoma's Ebi Ere tries to shoot over Butler's Joel Cornette in the second half of the Sooners' 65-54 win over Butler Friday in Albany. Ere came off the bench to score 25 points as the Sooners advance to the Elite Eight for the second straight year.

ALBANY, N.Y. — A little over two weeks ago Kelvin Sampson thought Ebi Ere's season was over after the senior suffered a broken right wrist. But on Friday night in Oklahoma's Sweet 16 matchup against Butler, it was Ere and his right wrist that helped the Sooners extend their season.

Ere came off the bench and scored 25 points as top-seeded Oklahoma advanced to the Elite Eight with a 65-54 win over Butler Friday night in Albany, N.Y.

"I hope that our kids learn something from Ebi. He was tremendous tonight," said Sampson on the senior guard, who had been plagued by a major slump which caused him to lose his starting spot late in the season.

"He's always had the right attitude," Sampson continued. "Ebi has always had the right approach, and his teammates have always had great respect for him. In the locker room there was more exuberance for the fact that Ebi played well more than it seemed that we won the game.

"I could tell it from the first shot," said senior guard Hollis Price on when he knew it was going to be Ere's night. "You could tell how high he jumped on that first shot, he got so high. I knew he was going to make something happen good for us when he went to the goal like that."

Price, who scored 10 of his 12 points in the first, kept the Sooner even with the Bulldogs for most of the first half and then handed it over to Ere. Ere scored 10 points in the final four minutes of the first half as the Sooners jumped out to a 32-23 halftime edge.

Oklahoma stormed out of the gates in the second half and an Ere jumper gave the Sooners their largest lead at 40-28 with 14:44 to go.

Butler cut the lead to 50-47 on a Mike Monserez three-pointer with 6:20 to go, but that would be as close as they would get as Ere the next five points to push the lead back to eight.

"Coach told us that we needed someone to step up and score besides Hollis," said Ere, who made 11 of his 19 shot attempts. "I was penetrating on their smaller guys, so I was just jumping up and shooting it over them."

"It is hard to put anybody away this time of the year," said Sampson. "Butler is a tough team. We knew they were going to make a run, so we just had to stick to playing Sooner Basketball."

The Bulldogs, who hit 14 three-pointers in their second round win over Lousiville, were held to just 4-of-13 shooting behind the arc by the Sooners' stingy perimeter defense. Butler's top three-point threat - Darnell Archey - was held to just six points and hit was 1-for-5 from three-point range.

Senior forward Joel Cornette led the Bulldogs with 21 points.

"I thought that the scouting report was really good for us," said Price on guarding Butler's three-point shooters. "We watched tape of their conference play and how they were defended by other teams. We played them like Wisconsin-Milwaukee played them."

"Butler came back, and we were bending," said Sampson. "But we find ways to win. And that is an unbelievable attribute for your team to win."

Oklahoma will play for a spot in the Final Four on Sunday when they take on the winner of Friday other East Region game Syracuse and Auburn.

OU-Butler Box Score

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories