The Price was right for Oklahoma Thursday night in San Jose.
Oklahoma guard Hollis Price scored 26 points as the Sooners advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1988 with a dominating 88-67 win over Arizona.
Facing a tough Arizona zone defense designed to shut down big man Aaron McGhee, Price responded with a sensational first half performance that kept the Sooners close to a red-hot shooting Arizona squad who shot 59 percent in the first half.
"Hollis carried us early — he was tremendous, but I've come to expect that from Hollis," said Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson.
"I have a superstition," said Price. "If I'm not hitting well [in warm-ups], I'll probably wash my hands when I go back to the locker room. Like today, I wasn't hitting it in warm-ups, so I went back and washed my hands. I came out with a new set of hands."
With his "new set of hands" Price scored 22 of Oklahoma's 33 first half points (including six three-pointers), and none were bigger then the five points he scored in a 7-2 Sooner run to end the first half and cut Arizona's lead from from 33-26 to 37-33.
That would be all the momentum the Sooners would need as Ebi Ere and Aaron McGhee picked up where Price left off in the first half.
"In the first half, they were running two or three guys on me as soon as I caught the ball, so I was just trying to keep my teammates involved and trying to find the open guy for the open shot," said senior forward Aaron McGhee. "At halftime coach really got into me, so I just wanted to stay aggressive and play my game."
"The thing that we've been known for all year long, I didn't see during the first half," said Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson. "Our goal in the second half was use the dribble to get to the rim and once we get to the rim, we'll rebound like crazy. We had 16 offensive rebounds for the game and I would say most of those were in the second half."
"Ebi and Aaron really played well. Aaron only had one rebound in the first half and seven in the second - that's the Aaron McGhee that I know."
Trailing 44-40 with 15:40 to play, Oklahoma blew the game open with an 11-0 run spurred by Ere and extended the lead and held off the 'Cats behind McGhee's big finish.
Ere scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half, including five key points in OU's huge 11-0 run. His three with 11:44 left capped the run and gave Oklahoma a 51-44 lead with 11:44 to play.
McGhee, who double teamed and held to just two points in the first half, responded with 21 in the second half, including six clucth free throws down the stretch. The senior from Aurora, Ill. finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
"Hollis was getting open and getting some good looks in the first half and he was knocking down his shots and getting some tough shots for us," said McGhee. "In the second half, me and Ebi got going and carried the load."
The Sooners outscored Arizona 55-30 in the second half and held the Wildcats to just 29 percent (10-29) from the field.
"I've always thought that the teams that do well are the teams that do good enough, not the ones that handle the pressure," said Sampson, who is now 6-9 in NCAA tournament games. "We're good enough to beat people. In the past, we were good enough to get there, now we're good enough to win."
"Pressure has nothing to do with it. I'm not coaching any different this week than I did last week or two years ago or three years ago. Coach Olson didn't either. He won a National Championship, I thought he coached pretty good today, they just got beat by a better team."
Oklahoma will play Big 12 conference foe Missouri on Saturday for the right to go to the Final Four. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
Walton 3-9 3-4 9, Anderson 2-4 2-4 7, Frye 4-4 1-3 9, Stoudamire 2-8 2-2 8, Gardner 4-15 5-5 14, Bynum 3-8 3-3 10, Fellah 0-0 0-0 0, Ranne 0-0 0-0 0, Zahn 1-3 0-0 2, Schwertley 0-0 0-0 0, Latimore 0-0 0-0 0, Fox 4-6 0-1 8. Totals 23-57 16-22 67.
Ere 5-14 2-2 14, McGhee 6-12 8-8 21, Brown 1-2 0-0 2, White 0-4 1-2 1, Price 9-16 2-2 26, Cano 0-0 0-0 0, Detrick 3-9 2-2 8, Johnston 0-0 0-0 0, Ainooson 0-0 0-0 0, Selvy 7-12 0-0 15, Szendrei 0-0 1-2 1, Liggett 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-70 16-18 88.
Halftime-Arizona 37, Oklahoma 33. 3-Point Goals-Arizona 5-22 (Stoudamire 2-6, Anderson 1-2, Bynum 1-5, Gardner 1-6, Zahn 0-1, Walton 0-2), Oklahoma 10-25 (Price 6-11, Ere 2-7, McGhee 1-1, Selvy 1-1, White 0-2, Detrick 0-3). Fouled out-Anderson. Rebounds-Arizona 37 (Walton 8), Oklahoma 42 (Ere, McGhee 8). Assists-Arizona 11 (Walton 8), Oklahoma 18 (White 6). Total fouls-Arizona 18, Oklahoma 21. Technicals-Frye, Brown. A-NA.
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