Sooners hope for priceless ending against Texas

Sooners, Horns set to square off for a possible share of the Big 12 Championship on Senior Day in Norman. Seniors Hollis Price (pictured left), Quannas White, Ebi Ere and Jozsef Szendrei will all start and be honored in a ceremony after the game. Tip-off is set for 2:30 PM at the Lloyd Noble Center and will broadcast nationally on ABC by Dick Vitale and Dan Shulman. Texas won the first meeting, 67-61, despite 23 points from Price.

NORMAN, Okla. – Kelvin Sampson has been dreading this Senior Day for a long, long time.

Emotions will be running high in more ways then one when the fifth-ranked Sooners take the floor Saturday for a 2:30 PM tip-off against the fourth-ranked Longhorns on Senior Day.

Hollywood writers couldn't have crafted a better script for what could transpire in the Lloyd Noble Center when Hollis Price, Ebi Ere, Jozsef Szendrei and Quannas White step on the court for their final game at the Lloyd Noble Center against arch-rival Texas.

And for Sampson, this group of seniors clearly stand out above the others who have come and gone during his tenure at Oklahoma.

"This group is special," said Sampson on Thursday as his Sooners prepared for Saturday's showdown. "The elevation of our program to a national level has come about during these kids' tenures here at Oklahoma. That makes them special."

"The thing that I'll cherish the most isn't the fact that they've helped us win games. It's the way they've represented the program. Our reputation on a national level of having a class program is because we've had class kids, and it starts with these guys."

Oklahoma is 52-10 since the arrival of White, Ere and Szendrei, but it is Price who has a special place in the heart of Sampson and many Sooner fans.

Price has been a mainstay on the Oklahoma basketball team for the last four years. He is currently No. 7 on the all-time scoring list and has participated in 104 wins at Oklahoma, just three away from the school record. The Sooners are 105-24 (price sat out one game in 2002) during his four years in Norman.

"There are very few things that I dread, but I can honestly tell you that I'm really, really dreading senior night," Sampson said. "I'm going to really enjoy every minute I'm with Hollis this year because I don't know when I'll get another one like him. To me, he's our heart and soul. Hollis embodies what we want in a Sooner basketball player."

The feeling is mutual for Price.

"That's my man," said Price on Sampson. "That's one of my best friends here. He treats me like a son. I appreciate what he's done for me for the past four years. There's nothing that I can do but win some games for him."

"I'm going to miss everybody around here too," Price continued. "For me to be here for four years and now it's coming down to the last game is kind of upsetting, but it's something you've got to do. You've got to move on in life. Hopefully, things will continue to go well for Oklahoma University."

Sampson would like nothing better then to have Price win a few more games for him before he moves on, and that obviously starts with Texas. With a win the Sooners increase their chances for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and would also claim a piece of the Big 12 regular season championship should Kansas lose to Missouri on Sunday. If OU beats Texas and Kansas loses to Missouri, then the Sooners would claim the No. 1 seed in next weekend's Big 12 tournament in Dallas.

But beating Texas, who won the first game in Austin, 67-61, on February 10, and ended an eight game losing streak to the Sooners, will be no easy task. Texas proved that they were tough enough to finally play with Oklahoma and outrebounded the Sooners 42-34.

"Texas has the best frontline we've faced all year," said Sampson. "They just come at you in waves. Rebounding and inside play is going to be critical. We've got to find a way to keep them off the offensive glass and get rebounds ourselves."

One player Oklahoma will focus on is junior center James Thomas. Thomas earned the respect of several Sooners in the first game when he pulled down 16 rebounds and scored 11 points in just 25 minutes of action.

"He's just a monster down there," said senior Ebi Ere. "He's probably the hardest worker I've seen since I've been in college basketball. He just brings it. They've got a nice rotation of big men. They're all big and strong, and they all just bring it."

"He plays his role for them getting putback points and rebounds, because that's what his team team needs," added Jozsef Szendrei. "He's just an animal, a beast for them."

Price says the Sooners will not only have to fight Thomas and the Longhorns, but also their emotions.

"We've got to try to contain our emotions," said Price. "Every senior night I kind of let go, but that doesn't stop you from playing hard, and that's what we've got to do Saturday."

"It's going to be exciting, just like down in Texas," Price continued. "We're looking forward to this game because we could tie for the Big 12 Championship."

"It's going to be two good teams out there," said Sampson. "We're both top five programs. It's going to be a war."

The Series
Oklahoma holds a 42-17 lead in the all-time series against the Longhorns. The Sooners have won eight of the last nine meetings and 24 of the last 29. OU is 19-5 against Texas in Norman. Kelvin Sampson is 15-4 as OU's head coach against the Horns.

PROJECTED STARTERS
TEXAS (21-5, 12-3) PPG RPG
F 22 Brad Buckman (6-8, 220, Fr.) 6.7 5.6
C 0 James Thomas (6-8, 235, Jr.) 11.6 11.5
G 3 Brandon Mouton (6-4, 205, Jr.) 14.3 4.4
G 11 T.J. Ford (5-10, 165, So.) 14.7 7.1 apg
G 24 Royal Ivey (6-3, 192, Jr.) 7.8 3.0

OKLAHOMA (21-5, 12-3) PPG RPG
F 42 Jozsef Szendrei (6-0, 240, Sr.) 1.6 2.7
C 21 Jabahri Brown (6-10, 210, Jr.) 6.5 5.6
G 2 Ebi Ere (6-5, 215, Sr.) 13.9 4.9
G 4 Quannas White (6-1, 190, Sr.) 8.3 4.0 apg
G 10 Hollis Price (6-1, 170, Sr.) 19.3 2.9

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