Teams: No. 17/17 Oklahoma (2-0) vs. VCU (1-1)
Date: Saturday, Nov. 21
Tip: 6:30 p.m. CST
Site: Richmond, Va. (Stuart C. Siegel Center)
Radio: Sooner Radio Network (KOKC 1520 AM in OKC; KMOD 97.5 FM in Tulsa)
TV: Sooner Sports Network (KAUT 43, Cox 7 in OKC; Cox 3 in Tulsa)
Series: OU leads 2-1
SATURDAY'S GAME BASICS
Ranked No. 17 in the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls, Oklahoma (2-0) plays its first road game of the year when it faces VCU (1-1) in Richmond, Va., Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CST. The contest, to be played at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, will air on the Sooner Radio Network (KOKC AM 1520 in OKC; KMOD FM 97.5 in Tulsa) with Bob Carpenter and Mike Houck announcing. An MASN television production, the game will air the Sooner Sports Network (KAUT Ch. 43 and Cox Cable 7 in OKC; Cox Cable 3 in Tulsa) and on DirecTV (640) and Dish Network (432) with Dave Weekley and Brooks Berry calling the action.
OKLAHOMA'S PROJECTED STARTERS
F 1 Ryan Wright (6-9, 241, Sr., 5.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
F 24 Tiny Gallon (6-9, 290, Fr., 10.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg)
G 5 Tony Crocker (6-6, 209, Sr., 8.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
G 11 Tommy Mason-Griffin (5-11, 203, Fr., 10.0 ppg, 4.5 apg)
G 13 Willie Warren (6-4, 203, So., 19.5 ppg, 7.5 apg)
VCU'S PROJECTED STARTERS
F 1 Larry Sanders (6-11, 235, Jr., 9.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
F 42 T.J. Gwynn (6-4, 205, Sr., 7.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
G 0 Jay Gavin (6-2, 220, So., 11.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
G 12 Joey Rodriguez (5-10, 175, Jr., 10.5 ppg, 2.5 apg)
G 20 Bradford Burgess (6-5, 215, So., 13.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
• Sophomore guard Willie Warren is averaging team highs of 19.5 points and 7.5 assists through two games. He has scored 21 points from the field and 18 from the free throw line (averaging 10.5 free throw attempts).
• Freshman forward Tiny Gallon is averaging a double-double (10.5 points and 12.5 rebounds). His 15 boards in the season opener were the most in an OU freshman debut since Alvan Adams grabbed 28 caroms in the 1972-73 opener.
• Freshman guard Steven Pledger has come off the bench to average 14.5 points in 17.5 minutes a contest. He is 10-for-14 from the field (.714) and 6-for-10 from long distance (.600). The Chesapeake, Va., product netted 21 points in 19 minutes in OU's opener against Mount St. Mary's (4-for-5 from deep).
• The Sooners have made 33 more free throws than their opponents on the young season. OU is 49-for-57 (.860) from the foul line while foes are 16-for-23 (.696).
• Guards have accounted for 122 of Oklahoma's 167 points (73 percent).
• The freshman foursome of Pledger (29), Gallon (21), Tommy Mason-Griffin (20) and Andrew Fitzgerald (14) have scored more than half of OU's points (84 of 167).
• Oklahoma is the first ranked opponent to play at VCU since Jan. 23, 1993 (25th-ranked Long Beach State) and the first at the Stuart C. Siegel Center (opened in 1999).
• OU moved to 2-1 all-time against VCU after last year's 81-70 win in Oklahoma City. The Rams won the only matchup in Richmond, however, 98-82 in 1993-94.
TUESDAY'S ULM RECAP
Oklahoma received a tough fight from Louisiana-Monroe on Tuesday in Norman, but prevailed 72-61 behind Willie Warren's 24 points and four assists. After the Sooners took a 5-0 lead, ULM rattled off the next 11 points and later went ahead 16-8 midway through the first half. Still trailing 22-17 at the 3-minute mark, OU finished the half on a 10-2 run to take a 27-24 lead at the break. The Warhawks did not go quietly, however, and took a 38-37 lead five minutes into the second half. OU responded with a quick 9-0 run (six free throws and a Steven Pledger 3-pointer) to go up by eight and never looked back. It extended its lead to as many as 14 points before settling for the 11-point triumph. A big storyline was free throw shooting, as the Sooners went 24-for-29 (.828) while ULM only attempted five from the stripe (made all five). Tony Crocker joined Warren in double figures with 13 points while Cade Davis and Tommy Mason-Griffin scored nine each. Pledger finished with eight while fellow freshman Tiny Gallon grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for his second straight game of double-digit boards.
MORE FROM TUESDAY'S WIN
• Oklahoma shot .364 from the field in the first half but countered with a .591 second-half mark.
• OU's guards accounted for 88 percent of the team's points (63 of 72).
• Willie Warren's 24 points came on just 12 field goal attempts. He was 6-for-12 from the floor and 11-for-13 from the foul line. His 11 free throw makes and 13 attempts tied career highs.
• After outrebounding Mount St. Mary's 51-30 in the season opener, OU grabbed 27 boards to match ULM's total.
• The win was the 1,500th in Oklahoma history and the 150th in the career of Jeff Capel.
Colonial Athletic Association member VCU, which finished 24-10 last year and lost 65-64 to UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, is off to a 1-1 start this season under first-year head coach Shaka Smart. The Rams beat Bethune-Cookman 77-51 at home in their season opener Nov. 13 before losing at Western Michigan by an 83-67 count Wednesday. They return five of their top six scorers from last season.
Sophomore guard Bradford Burgess is one of three Rams who average double figures in scoring. He averages a team-high 13.0 points and has made a team-high four 3-pointers on eight attempts. Burgess scored a team-high 16 points at Western Michigan. Sophomore guard Jay Gavin, a transfer from Marist who was the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Co-Rookie of the Year two seasons ago, is averaging 11.0 points a contest and is 3-for-6 from behind the arc. Another long-range threat, junior guard Joey Rodriguez contributes 10.5 points and 2.5 assists per outing. He is 3-for-14 from 3-point range this year after shooting .416 last year. Junior forward Larry Sanders, who is widely considered VCU's best player and a potential NBA lottery pick, is averaging 9.5 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds in 21.0 minutes a game. He is 6-for-12 from the field and has picked up eight fouls in two games. Last year, Sanders averaged 11.3 points, 8.6 boards and 2.7 blocks per game.
Smart, a 1999 Kenyon College graduate replaced Anthony Grant (now at Alabama) as VCU's head coach last spring. The 32-year-old Smart spent the 2008-09 season as an assistant coach at Florida. He's also served as an assistant at Clemson and Akron.
OU-VCU SERIES HISTORY
Oklahoma owns a 2-1 series lead over VCU. The Sooners won the first meeting in the 1990-91 season in Norman, 141-105, before dropping a 98-82 decision in Richmond during the 1993-94 season (Billy Tubbs' last year as OU head coach). The programs met last year in Oklahoma City with the Sooners posting an 81-70 win (recap below).
LAST YEAR AGAINST THE RAMS
The Sooners made 10 3-pointers and shot .625 from behind the arc in an 81-70 All-College Classic victory over VCU last year in Oklahoma City (the game was played Dec. 20). Now a senior, Tony Crocker led all scorers with a then-career-high 26 points. The guard was 5-for-6 from long distance and 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Eventual national player of the year Blake Griffin netted 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds while Willie Warren and Austin Johnson scored nine each. OU used an 11-1 first-half-ending run to turn a 32-31 deficit into a 42-33 lead at the break. The Sooners upped their margin to as many as 20 (80-60) before VCU finished the game on a 10-1 spurt. Rams' forward Larry Sanders scored a team-high 16 points while point guard Eric Maynor, who entered the game averaging 24.4 points, and forward Bradford Burgess tallied 15 each. Maynor was 5-for-19 from the field and committed eight turnovers. OU posted a 35-31 rebounding advantage and both teams logged 13 turnovers.
CAPEL RETURNS TO SIEGEL CENTER
OU head coach Jeff Capel, who compiled a 79-41 (.658) record at VCU from the 2002-03 through the 2005-06 seasons, makes his coaching return to Richmond this weekend. Capel led the Rams to a 50-22 (.694) record in Colonial Athletic Association play and to the 2004 NCAA Tournament and the 2005 postseason NIT. His four teams (starting with the 2002-03 squad) finished 18-10, 23-8, 19-13 and 19-10. VCU's lone remaining player from the Capel era is fifth-year senior forward T.J. Gwynn.
I NEED TICKETS
Saturday's game will serve as a homecoming for freshman guard Steven Pledger, who hails from Chesapeake, Va., and attended Atlantic Shores Christian School. A large number of his family and friends will be in attendance. Fellow freshman Tiny Gallon prepped the last two years at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., while a third frosh, Andrew Fitzgerald, is from nearby Baltimore, Md.
Oklahoma heads to Anchorage, Alaska, next week for the Great Alaska Shootout. The Sooners will face San Diego in first-round action Wednesday, Nov. 25, at 9:45 p.m. AST (12:45 a.m. CST) and Houston in a second-round affair Thursday, Nov. 26, at 7:30 p.m. AST (10:30 p.m. CST). They will take on Alaska Anchorage, Nicholls State or Washington State on Saturday, Nov. 28.