West Region Final
by Adam Reich
A Trip to the Final Four: PRICE-less
No. 2 Oklahoma 81, No. 12 Missouri 75
Hollis Price, the West Region MVP, scored a team-high 18 points and hit two
free throws with 6 seconds remaining to ice Missouri and send Oklahoma
to the Final Four for the first time since 1988.
Oklahoma withstood a number of comeback attempts to hold off fellow Big 12
member Missouri. Late in the first half Missouri overcame a nine-point
deficit to take a 32-31 lead. However, Price helped OU regain the momentum
by hitting a big three-pointer. He then added another trey just before
halftime as the Sooners went on a 10-1 run to close out the half and take
a 41-33 lead into the locker room.
A technical foul on Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson sparked a 10-3
Missouri run that got the Tigers to within one at 54-53. Yet for every
Missouri run the Sooners had an answer. Down the stretch the Sooners made
two key defensive stops after a Kareem Rush trifecta had cut the Oklahoma
lead to 3. OU’s tough defense forced 14 Missouri turnovers and held the
Tigers to just 42% shooting from the floor. Missouri guard Clarence Gilbert,
who was deadly from beyond the arc in wins over Ohio State and UCLA,
shot only 1-for-16 from the floor, including 1 of 8 from three-point land.
The Tigers also hurt themselves at the charity stripe as they converted only
20 of 34 free throws (59%). Despite their horrendous numbers from the line,
Missouri managed to hang around because of Rickey Paulding (23 pts) and
Rush (17 pts).
Oklahoma didn’t shoot lights out either, but they did make 24 of 32 free
throws (75%) as well as 7 of 14 three-pointers. Guard Ebi Ere (17 pts),
McGhee (15 pts) and Quannas White (12 pts) all joined Price in double
figures for Oklahoma.
As the Final Four approaches, the majority of the attention has gone to
No. 1 seeds Kansas and Maryland. Some are even willing to concede the
National Championship to the winner of the Kansas-Maryland game. However,
the Sooners have to be considered a serious contender, if not the favorite.
Oklahoma crushed Maryland by 16 points earlier this season and beat Kansas
on a neutral court to win the Big 12 Tournament. They have won 16 of their
last 17 games and breezed through the toughest region in the tournament.
So before serenading the Terrapins or Jayhawks, remember, there is a team
from Norman, Oklahoma heading to Atlanta on a mission.