Sampson says depleted 'Horns still a tough matchup

Oklahoma and Texas will tip off at 2:45 p.m. CST on Saturday. See inside for OUI's game preview.

NORMAN — A pair of streaks will be on the line when No. 18 Oklahoma and No. 11 Texas meet Saturday at the Lloyd Noble Center.

On the line when the teams tip-off at 2:45 p.m. CST, will be the Sooners' eight-game streak this season and the Longhorns' five-game streak over OU dating back to senior day in 2002-03 season.

The Sooners' chance of continuing their streak got a little better this week when the Longhorns announced that sophomore guard and leading scorer P.J. Tucker is ineligible for the remainder of the season, and that freshman center LaMarcus Aldridge will miss the game with a knee injury.

But don't tell Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson the loss of Tucker and Aldridge gives his Sooners a better shot. In fact, he sees it the other way around.

"It's going to be a tough game, but Texas losing P.J. and LaMarcus, I think, makes it even tougher," said Sampson. "They didn't have LaMarcus Aldridge against O-State and they were up 12 at halftime. Obviously, they've got somebody that can replace him. The guy that will replace P.J. is Sydmill Harris, a senior who might be their best 3-point shooter. I don't know if he is stat-wise, but he's a dangerous shooter."

With the loss of Tucker, who led Texas in scoring (13.7) and rebounds (8.0), the Longhorns could turn to true freshman Daniel Gibson (6-2, 190) to be their go-to guy.

Gibson, a former McDonald's All-American from Houston, averages 12.9 points per game and is coming off of a 27-point performance in the 'Horns win over Oklahoma State Monday in Austin.

"He's a Stephon Marbury type point guard in that he can get you for 25 or he can go get seven or eight assists," said Sampson on Gibson, who chose the Longhorns over Kansas and Oklahoma out of high school. "He's pretty good at a lot of things. He plays with great confidence. Daniel is one of the bright, bright stars in our league for the future."

Joining Gibson as threats in the backcourt are seniors Kenny Taylor (6-2, 190) and Sydmill Harris (6-4, 200) and junior Kenton Paulino (6-0, 180). Paulino comes off the bench and shoots 56 percent (28-50) from 3-point range, while Harris has connected on 24 of his 57 attempts. Taylor, a transfer from Baylor who can shoot and drive, is the 'Horns third-leading scorer at 10.8 points per game.

But inside is where the 'Horns are depleted with the loss of Tucker and Aldridge, or are they?

The Longhorns will start junior Brad Buckman (6-8, 235) and senior Jason Klotz (6-9, 245) inside with freshman and former McDonald's All-American Mike Williams (6-7, 220) coming off the bench. Buckman averages 11 points and 6.4 rebounds and Klotz comes into Saturday's game averaging 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds. Both Klotz and Buckman can score inside, while Williams is more of an athletic banger. Buckman also shoots close to 50 percent from 3-point range.

Despite UT's losses and lack of depth inside Sampson says that they will still be a tough match-up, but one that his Sooners are prepared for.

"I think that's where our schedule's helped us," Sampson said. "I thought Connecticut's big guys were pretty good, And Shelden Williams at Duke. We've played against some really good frontlines thus far.

"They've got Buckman and Klotz and Mike Williams. Remember that name. Mike Williams may wind up being the best of all of them before he's done playing. He is so aggressive. His nickname's 'the beast', and if you watch him on tape you can see why."

Williams missed the Longhorn's first five games while waiting for the NCAA Clearinghouse to declare him eligible. Since he became eligible he has averaged 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in limited action, but that all figures to change with the loss of Aldridge and Tucker.

"Aldridge may be down, but look at Mike Williams," Sampson said. "He's a lot bigger and stronger and more aggressive than LaMarcus. LaMarcus is one of those kids who's probably going to be a first round draft choice, but Mike Williams may wind up being a better college player because of how big and strong and aggressive he is."

Oklahoma comes into the game 14-2 overall and 3-0 in Big 12 play. Texas is 14-3 and 3-1 in conference action. The Sooners lead the all-time series by a 42-21 mark and are 19-7 against Texas in Norman despite the 'Horns two-game winning streak at the Lloyd Noble Center.

"The players they have are good enough to keep winning," said Sampson, who is 15-8 against Texas. "Our challenge is to do what we do. Whether we're playing Connecticut, Duke, Texas or O-State, we're not going to change a whole lot. We do what we do. In big games it comes down to making big shots.

"We have great respect for Texas and we've had great games with them over the last 10 years. It's gone both ways. We're very capable of winning the game on Saturday, but so are they."

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