Well, it's that time of year. Time for two of the best basketball teams in the southwest to lace up their shoes and go to war with each other for 40 minutes. This first edition of OU versus Texas on the hardwood in 2003 will feature one of the finest Oklahoma teams ever against the best Texas team ever assembled.
The Sooners have won eight straight against the Longhorns, a stat that could work one of two ways. It could benefit Texas in that they will come out barking fire or it could help the Sooners because they have such a mental edge over a UT team that thinks they are snake bit against Oklahoma. The first five minutes will tell this tale. OU head coach Kelvin Sampson still thinks that Texas will have the advantage at tip-off.
"I am sure they will be heavily favored," Sampson said. "They are the No.3 ranked team in the nation and they are playing at home. We have to go down to Austin and represent the Sooners."
First and foremost, for Oklahoma to win they are going to have to find a way to slow down T.J. Ford. OU's formula for success last year was Quannas White. White, widely considered to be one of the best defenders in the conference, helped take Ford out of his rhythm in each of Oklahoma's three victories over the Longhorns last year. It will take a similar defensive effort tomorrow for the chances of a Sooner victory to remain high.
On the offensive side of the ball, Oklahoma is pretty simple. OU know Hollis Price and Ebi Ere will get their points, and you know that Kevin Bookout will get his easy looks, but other than Ford, the offensive production for Texas is a great unknown. Five different players have led Texas in scoring this year, and tomorrow night OU must keep a close eye on James Thomas, Sydmill Harris, Brandon Mouton and Brian Boddicker as well as Ford if they want to win. Each of these players has scored at least 20 points in a game this season.
Rebounding has been a hot and cold subject for the Longhorns this year. When they are playing well they are rebounding machines. When they struggle, the battle of the boards is usually not in their favor. Bookout, Jabahri Brown, Johnnie Gilbert and even Ere will have to be on top of their rebounding game and minimize the second chance attempts of Thomas and the rest of the Longhorn frontcourt.
Despite all of this knit picking, a look at the season stats show that the Sooners and Longhorns are two evenly matched teams. Both squads are shooting 45 percent from the field. Each team averages 14 assists a game, and both shoot around 72 percent from the free-throw line. All of these stats, as well as many others, point towards an extremely hard-fought and close ball game tomorrow night.
I'm not brave enough to venture any kind of a guess that would suggest otherwise.
Tip-off for tonights Red River Showdown is scheduled for 8PM (CST) and will be nationally televised by ESPN.
TEXAS PROJECTED STARTERS PPG RPG
F 22 Brad Buckman (6-8, 220, Fr.) 6.5 5.1
C 0 James Thomas (6-8, 235, Jr.) 10.8 11.1
G 3 Brandon Mouton (6-4, 205, Jr.) 12.9 4.2
G 11 T.J. Ford (5-10, 165, So.) 15.0 4.0
G 24 Royal Ivey (6-3, 191, Jr.) 8.4 3.1
OKLAHOMA PROJECTED STARTERS PPG RPG
F 34 Kevin Bookout (6-8, 260, Fr.) 9.9 5.9
C 21 Jabahri Brown (6-10, 210, Jr.) 6.6 5.6
G 2 Ebi Ere (6-5, 215, Sr.) 15.8 5.4
G 4 Quannas White (6-1, 190, Sr.) 7.5 3.6
G 10 Hollis Price (6-1, 170, Sr.) 19.1 2.8
Oklahoma leads the overall series with Texas, 42-16, and is 15-9 in games in Austin. The Sooners have won the last eight meetings and 24 of the last 28. The average score of the last eight meetings is 77-63. OU has gone 3-0 against Texas each of the past two seasons.
Kelvin Sampson is 15-3 against the Longhorns as OU's head coach and is 5-2 at the Erwin Center. Texas head coach Rick Barnes is in his fifth season at Texas where he is 105-47 (.691). He has compiled a 307-181 (.629) record in 15-plus years as a head coach at George Mason, Providence, Clemson and Texas.
Oklahoma (16-3, 7-1) was ranked fifth in the coaches poll and seventh in the AP Poll last week. Texas (15-4, 6-2) was ranked third in both polls. As of late Sunday OU was ranked No. 8 in the RPI and Texas was ranked third.
The game will be televised nationally by ESPN with Dan Shulman (play-by-play), Dick Vitale (analyst) and Michele Tafoya (reporter) announcing.
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