The Best in the West

Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson hugs Hollis Price (10) after the Sooners beat Missouri, 81-75, to advance to their first Final Four since 1988 (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Oklahoma found their way to San Jose behind Aaron McGhee. They found their through with Hollis Price.

For the first time since 1988, Oklahoma is going to the Final Four.

In what was a foul-fest from the opening tip, but the Sooners fought off the Missouri and early foul trouble en route to an ugly 81-75 win over Missouri in the West Regional Final.

"I've always wondered what I'd be like to take a team to the final four," said Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson. "I think back to when I first started going to the tournament as a young coach at Montana Tech. But I wanted our team to go. It loses it's thrill for you to go as an individual."

"Now it will be Oklahoma out there."

"A win is a win and now we're going to Atlanta," said senior forward Aaron McGhee, who scored 15 points despite being hampered with four fouls since the 18:34 mark of the second half.

Price, who carried the Sooners to the elite eight with 26 points in their win over Arizona on Thursday, was money in the second half hitting big shot after big shot to keep the Tigers at bay. Price led Oklahoma with 18 points and was named the West Region's most valuable player.

After the game, Price and Sampson embraced on the court, and the junior from New Orleans said he did all the talking.

"I told him we were tired of him going to the final four," said Price to Sampson, who usually attends the coaches convention at the final four every year when the team is not playing. "We wanted to be with him, so that's where we are."

The always talkative Ebi Ere was almost speechless after the win.

"I don't have anything interesting to say," chuckled Ere when asked his thoughts on the win. "We're going to Atlanta."

Oklahoma jumped out to a nine-point halftime lead and led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but Missouri stormed back to cut the lead to as close as 70-67 late in the second half on a Kareem Rush three-pointer.

McGhee responded on the next possession with a huge three from the right wing and the Sooners never looked back.

Sampson summed up the win with eight simple words.

"I'm happy," said Sampson. "We're going to the Final Four."

MISSOURI (24-12)
Bryant 4-7 1-3 9, Rush 5-10 5-6 17, Johnson 4-6 1-8 9, C.Gilbert 1-16 4-6 7, Paulding 7-12 5-6 22, Stokes 1-2 2-2 5, Gage 2-3 2-2 6, Kroenke 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Echols 0-1 0-1 0. Totals 24-57 20-34 75.

Ere 6-11 4-4 17, McGhee 5-10 4-6 15, Brown 3-5 1-2 7, White 3-6 6-6 12, Price 6-13 2-3 18, Detrick 1-2 1-2 3, Johnston 1-4 0-1 3, Selvy 0-5 4-4 4, Szendrei 0-0 2-4 2. Totals 25-56 24-32 81.

Halftime-Oklahoma 41, Missouri 33. 3-Point Goals-Missouri 7-22 (Paulding 3-5, Rush 2-6, Stokes 1-1, C.Gilbert 1-9, Bryant 0-1), Oklahoma 7-14 (Price 4-7, Ere 1-1, McGhee 1-2, Johnston 1-3, Selvy 0-1). Fouled out-Johnson, Rush. Rebounds-Missouri 39 (Bryant 9), Oklahoma 38 (Selvy, White 7). Assists-Missouri 16 (Paulding, Stokes 4), Oklahoma 17 (White 7). Total fouls-Missouri 27, Oklahoma 26. A-18,040

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