Sampson says Sooners know what is at stake

Sooners can get one step closer to Big 12 title with win over Missouri Wednesday night. Sampson says whether or not to play junior center Jabahri Brown (pictured left) will be a gametime decision. Tip-off is scheduled for 8PM (CST) at the Hearnes Center in Columbia

There will be more then winning streaks on the line when third-ranked Oklahoma takes on Missouri Wednesday night in Columbia.

The Sooners and Tigers are two teams nearly headed in different directions, and that makes Wednesday night's tilt that much more important.

Oklahoma (20-4, 10-2) moved into a first-place tie with Kansas after their 77-70 win over the Jayhawks Sunday in Lawrence. Missouri (16-7, 7-5) fell out of the Top 25 polls for the first time this season after getting blown out by Colorado, 89-68, Saturday in Boulder.

A win Wednesday night in Columbia puts the Sooners one step closer to their first-ever Big 12 regular season championship, while a Missouri victory would do wonders for their NCAA resume and eliminate any possible bubble talk.

"Every game is important right now," said Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson, whose Sooners have won the last nine meetings against the Tigers. "We know what is at stake and I realize because we're coming toward the end of the year these games seem more important."

Oklahoma's chances of winning in Columbia may be slightly improved if Tiger guard Ricky Clemons is unable to play because of a broken left hand. Clemons is Missouri's third-leading scorer at 16 points per game and he suffered the broken hand against Colorado.

Early reports out of Columbia say that Clemons will definitely miss the Oklahoma game, but Sampson isn't counting on it.

"We don't know if Clemons will play or not, but we are coaching as if he is going to play. Too much is at stake. He'll play if he can," Sampson said.

Sampson and the Sooners also have an injury situation of their own to deal with. Starting center Jabahri Brown, who suffered a mild concussion during the Kansas game on Sunday, traveled with the team to Columbia, but Sampson says it will be a gametime decision on whether he plays or not.

"Jabahri is still a wait-and-see situation," said Sampson. "We're calling it a wait-and-see situation because we take concussions seriously. Our trainers feel, just from looking at Jabahri and watching him at practice today, that it looks like he's going to be fine. It's probably going to be a gametime decision because we want to make sure he's mentally into it, not just physically."

Brown's return could be huge for the Sooners against Missouri's stout frontcourt of Arthur Johnson and Travon Bryant.

"This is a tough matchup for us," Sampson said. "Arthur Johnson is the best power forward in our conference and Rickey Paulding is one of the best shooting guards in our conference."

"I know that's saying a lot," said Sampson on his comment regarding Johnson. "But he's powerful, strong and he's got skills. We'll put Kevin (Bookout) on him. Kevin's a good defensive player. It's amazing how good of a defensive player he is as freshmen, but he'll need to be against Arthur."

"We've had some luck there the last couple of times" added Sampson on playing in Columbia, where the Tigers are 13-0 this season. "Missouri plays plays great at home. They have a great atmosphere and great support. We'll have to play a great game to win this game."

The Series
Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Missouri, 108-88, but trails 55-29 in games in Columbia. Kelvin Sampson is 11-5 against the Tigers and is 2-3 at the Hearnes Center. OU has won the last nine meetings including the last two in Columbia.

Projected Starters
Oklahoma (20-4, 10-2)
F Kevin Bookout (6-8, 260, Fr.) 9.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg
C Jabahri Brown (6-10, 210, Jr.) 6.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg
G Quannas White (6-1, 190, Sr.) 8.8 ppg, 3.7 apg
G Hollis Price (6-1, 170, Sr.) 19.3 ppg, 3.0 apg
G Ebi Ere (6-5, 215, Sr.) 14.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg

Missouri (16-7, 7-5)
C Arthur Johnson (6-9, 260, Jr.) 16.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg
F Travon Bryant (6-9, 236, Jr.) 8.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg
G Jimmy McKinney (6-3, 200, Fr.) 8.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg
G Josh Kroenke (6-4, 195, Jr.) 3.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg
G Rickey Paulding (6-5, 212, Jr.) 16.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg

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