NIT PREVIEW: OU, LSU have a lot in common

Sooners, Tigers ready to hook up on the hardwood. Tip-off for tonight's first round NIT matchup is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. at the Lloyd Noble Center. Tickets can still be purchased on SoonerSports.com or by calling 405-3325-2424. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

THE TEAMS
Oklahoma (19-10, 8-8) vs. LSU (18-10, 8-8)

THE SCENE
Norman, Okla. (Lloyd Noble Center). First-round NIT matchup. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. and will be nationally televised ESPN. Mark Jones and Fran Fraschilla will call the action.

THE SERIES
LSU leads 2-1. The teams first meeting ironically came in a 1970 NIT matchup at Madison Square Garden where Pete Maravich led the Tigers to a 97-94 win. The Sooners won, 94-65, in 1987 in Oklahoma City and LSU returned the favor with a 84-77 win over OU in 1988 in New Orleans. The Sooners, who have made six trips ('70, '71, '82, '91, '93 and '94) to the NIT, are 9-6 overall in the tournament.

THE MATCHUP
If ever there was a team whose season was a mirror image of Oklahoma's — it's LSU. Just like the Sooners, the Tigers have started three freshmen at times during the season and have lost their top inside scorer to injury and struggled since.

The Tigers, just like the Sooners, got off to a strong start opening the season with eight straight wins and a 12-1 overall start, but that's when things started to go downhill. LSU's season and NCAA chances took a severe hit when they lost Jaime Lloreda, a 6-foot-9 power forward who averaged 16.9 points and 11.7 rebounds a game, to a leg injury following the Tigers' 84-58 loss at Mississippi State on Feb. 24. Without Lloreda, the Tigers finished the season 1-3 and were 1-6 overall in their last seven games. The Sooners, who lost power forward Kevin Bookout in early January, were 9-10 without their top inside scorer.

In the absence of Lloreda, freshman forward and former McDonald's All-American Brandon Bass has emerged. Bass, who was named the SEC Freshman of the Year, has four straight double-doubles and recorded a season-best 22 points in LSU's win over UAB earlier in the season. Junior guard Antonio Hudson has also picked his game up and hit five three's in a career-high 26 point performance in LSU's 85-64 loss to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament.

The Tigers, whose lone win without Lloreda came against Ole Miss (58-45) in Baton Rouge, also have three different players who were recruited heavily by Oklahoma. Starters Antonio Hudson and Darrel Mitchell and backup guard Tack Minor (7.1 ppg, 1.8 apg) all considered the Sooners before choosing LSU. Walk-on guard Josh Maravich is the son of former Tiger Pete Maravich.

SAMPSON ON LSU
"They have two kids in Antonio Hudson and Tack Minor that were had on our list at some point during the recruiting process, and we know they are very good players.

"Brandon Bass was the SEC Freshman of the Year. Drew (Lavender) was one of the top freshmen in our league, but Brandon Bass was the Freshman of the Year in the SEC. He is about 6'8, 240 and just a monster inside. He will cause problems for us, but he causes problems for everybody.

"Darrel Mitchell is another kid that we have seen a lot of. He is an outstanding combo guard much like Lawrence (McKenzie). I think Darrel is a sophomore and he is a great outside shooter.

"This team will pose problems for us just like every team will just because of our depth and only two post players that are available for us. Our last three halves of basketball, the last half against Nebraska and the game against Texas, shows that our kids are really competing hard at this stage in the season."

THE STARTERS
OKLAHOMA (19-10, 8-8)

F-32-Johnnie Gilbert (6-8, 235, Jr., 5.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.7 apg) C-44-Larry Turner (6-11, 235, Fr., 3.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 0.4 apg) G-3-Drew Lavender (5-7, 155, Fr., 11.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.8 apg) G-5-Jason Detrick (6-6, 215, Sr., 11.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.4 apg) G-1-Lawrence McKenzie (6-2, 170, Fr., 8.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.3 apg)

LSU (18-10, 8-8)
F-35-Darnell Lazare (6-8, 215, Fr., 2.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg) F-30-Brandon Bass (6-8, 240 Fr., 12.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.0 bpg) G-42-Antonio Hudson (6-5, 206 Jr., 10.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.9 apg) G-2- Darrel Mitchell (5-11, 175 So., 11.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.2 apg) G-22- Xavier Whipple (6-2, 170, Jr., 4.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.0 apg)

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