NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma's chances winning the Big 12 regular season championship outright are officially over.
Kansas clinched at least a share of the conference title Monday night when they knocked off Texas Tech, 65-56, in Lubbock. A Kansas victory on Sunday in Columbia against Missouri gives the Jayhawks sole possession of the regular season crown, but Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson says all is not lost.
"I'd like to win a conference championship," said Sampson, whose Sooners still have a chance to win a share of the conference title if OU wins out and Kansas loses to Missouri in the season finale. "Coaches who say that they don't want a conference championship usually don't have a chance to."
"The Missouri game took us out of controlling our destiny," Sampson added. "But the positive is that you don't have to win your conference championship to win the national championship."
The only thing the Sooners can worry about now is winning out and beating Nebraska and Texas. With a current national ranking of five in the latest AP Poll and an RPI rating of four, Oklahoma is still very much in a strong position to land a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament. And a 13-3 record and first or second place finish in the toughest conference in the nation would probably get the job done.
"We just have take care of business at home," said Sampson. "If we do that we'll be okay."
First up for the Sooners is Nebraska. The only thing certain in this year's Big 12 Tournament in Dallas is that the Cornhuskers will probably finish in the Big 12 cellar and be the No. 12 seed. Nebraska (11-16, 3-11) comes into tonight's matchup beat up, banged up and ready for the season to be over.
The Cornhuskers' season took a turn for the worse during their first conference game against Kansas when their star sophomore guard — Jake Muhleisen — suffered a season-ending pelvic injury when he fell to the floor after being fouled while driving to the goal.
The loss costs Nebraska its most experienced point guard, as Muhleisen had started all 14 games up to that point and 27-of-28 games last year as a true freshman. Muhleisen was the team's leader in assists (3.4 apg), minutes played (31.3) and was third on the team in points (11.7 ppg) before his injury.
"When Jake went down that was a big loss for Nebraska, because he was their glue and the guy that keeps them all together," said Sampson, on the how the injury effects the Huskers, who are 3-11 since Muhleisen's injury. "Their three guards are solid, but what they lack is a guy like Jake Mulheisen."
Surprisingly, the Huskers come to Norman with a two-game winning streak after getting home wins last week against Kansas State (69-61) and Iowa State (69-63) in Lincoln.
"They're all still very important right now," said senior guard Quannas White. "It's still conference basketball and we're still in the race to win the Big 12 Championship. We just can't overlook anyone in this league. We're just going to take one game at a time."
OU holds a 20-game series advantage (98-78) in a series that dates back to 1920. The Sooners are 20-4 at the Lloyd Noble Center against the Huskers. Oklahoma beat the Huskers, 78-51, last year in Norman.
Nebraska (11-16, 3-11) PPG RPG
F 44 John Turek (6-9, 240, Sr.) 7.7 6.7
C 50 Andrew Drevo (6-8, 270, Jr.) 13.0 7.3
G 4 Nate Johnson (6-2, 180, Jr.) 13.6 3.7
G 21 Corey Simms (6-2, 205, So.) 7.7 5.0
G 32 Brennon Clemmons (6-2, 185, Sr.) 6.5 5.0
OKLAHOMA (20-5, 11-3) PPG RPG
F 34 Kevin Bookout (6-8, 260, Fr.) 9.6 6.1
C 21 Jabahri Brown (6-10, 210, Jr.) 6.1 5.3
G 15 De'Angelo Alexander (6-4, 214, Fr.) 6.2 3.1
G 4 Quannas White (6-1, 190, Sr.) 8.7 3.9
G 10 Hollis Price (6-1, 170, Sr.) 19.2 2.8
Sampson talks about Nebraska, Big 12 race
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