Friday, March 15, 2002

Oklahoma 71, Illinois-Chicago 63

The Associated Press

        DALLAS — When Oklahoma gathered for its pregame huddle at midcourt, the Illinois-Chicago players were already there — and the Flames weren't about to move.

Former UC Bearcat Aaron McGhee had 26 points and 12 rebounds for Oklahoma.
(Ernie Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        Some bumping and shoving led to snickers from UIC players and coaches, who were proud of their take-that approach. The Sooners didn't let that good feeling last long.

        Aaron McGhee, a transfer from the University of Cincinnati, threw around his body for 26 points and 12 rebounds, and Hollis Price shook off two early injuries to score 17 points, carrying the second-seeded Sooners past the Flames 71-63 Friday in the West Regional. Oklahoma will play Xavier next after the Musketeers beat Hawaii 70-58.

        “Whenever we step on the court, we feel like we own it,” said Daryan Selvy, who scored nine straight points during an 18-3 OU run that broke the game open midway through the first half. “So they were invading our territory. We were serious. I don't know what their intention was.”

        Martell Bailey, who led the shoves for UIC despite being the team's smallest player, said the team's intention was to let the Sooners (28-5) know the Flames (20-14) weren't to be taken lightly.

        “Coach told us not to fear anyone,” Bailey said. “I felt we were there first, so we shouldn't have to move.”

        No matter how tough they talked, UIC simply didn't have anyone who could handle the 6-foot-10, 250-pound McGhee. He hit a short shot for the game's first basket and had 13 points in each half, some from long range. He finished one point shy of his season high.

        While OU wasn't always smooth on offense — going 2-for-18 on 3-pointers — the Sooners' defense prevented UIC from finding a rhythm.

        The Flames, winners of the Horizon League tournament, were 5-of-22 on 3-pointers after being the sixth-most accurate team in the country from long range. They went nearly nine minutes between field goals during OU's big first-half run.

        “We took away their strength and forced them to play a style they're not accustomed to,” said McGhee, who said the Sooners try to show “superior dominance” with their pregame huddle ritual.

        OU has won nine straight games, four since coach Kelvin Sampson had his players watch clips from their 70-68 overtime loss to 13th-seeded Indiana State in the opening round of last year's NCAAs. Price said the video kept them focused last week when they won the Big 12 tournament.

        As for UIC guard Jordan Kardos' comment this week that “we're going to show those farmers how to play city ball,” Price said that provided more amusement than motivation.

        “It didn't get under my skin,” said Price, who called teammates “farmers” in practice Thursday when they missed shots.

        “It was funny.”

        Price went out in the first half to have his left ankle retaped, then to have his right hamstring treated with ice. Seeing him limp to the bench was a cruel reminder of the gruesome arm injury he suffered in last year's NCAAs.

        But Price battled back each time and opened the second half with a 3-pointer that put OU up by 11. Later, his jumper made it 46-38 and got the pro-Sooners crowd on its feet.

        Flames leading scorer Cedric Banks, whose jumper with 0.4 seconds left in overtime won the league tournament, shot only 3-of-14, including 1-of-5 on 3s. He, Bailey and Cory Little led UIC with 11 points each.

        “We felt like we were in the whole game,” said center Thor Solverson, who played in UIC's only previous NCAA appearance, in 1998. “I don't think we played scared.”

Complete NCAA coverage

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