Both Sooners and Great Danes want to stick around this time
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Oklahoma Sooners have not forgotten this cruel fact: They haven’t won a game on the biggest college basketball stage since 2009.
“It’s been in the back of our heads,” leading scorer and Big 12 player of the year Buddy Hield said. “We had a couple of great practices to prepare us for this game and we’re just ready to get after it now.”
Added Ryan Spangler of the early losses in the NCAA Tournament: “We don’t want that to happen to us again.”
A year ago, Oklahoma was seeded fifth when it was ousted 80-75 by North Dakota State right off the bat.
The Sooners (22-10) and Friday opponent Albany have each made the tournament three years in a row. Now, they badly want to stick around for a while.
“We’re here to win a game,” Great Danes coach Will Brown said. “We’re here to win more than one game.”
The Great Danes (24-8) won in the First Four a year ago, but have yet to win when the stakes and the attention are highest.
“We played Duke first (in 2013), then Florida last year, and obviously they’re major programs,” Albany guard Peter Hooley said. “We just try to let these guys know on our team that anything can happen. It’s March.”
Other noteworthy items from the Sooners-Great Danes matchup:
QUOTE OF THE DAY I: Albany’s Brown: “I think if Hooley hits 10 3s and Rowley fouls out their entire front court, we should be in good shape.”
BAD DAY FOR BIG 12 NO. 3 SEEDS: No. 3-seeded Big 12 member Iowa State was upset in its opening NCAA game on Thursday by 14th-seeded UAB, 60-59. Then No. 3-seeded Big 12 member Baylor was upset in its opening game by 14th-seeded Georgia State, 57-56.
See a trend?
“I’m very surprised,” said Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger, coach of a three-seeded Big 12 member playing a 14 seed. “Two great teams that had great years and outstanding players. That’s the nature of the NCAA Tournament, I guess. It’s surprising anytime that happens, but it’s happened before.”
His players might have been unsettled by what took place Thursday — turning a lot of brackets into scratch pads — but they weren’t showing it.
“I think (those results) help us,” Spangler said. “It shows us that anybody can beat anybody when it comes to March. And we’ll be thinking about those two losses tonight, see what went wrong, and try not to let it happen to us tomorrow.”
As for the Great Danes, they looked at the upsets as potentially an omen.
“It can happen. It does happen,” said forward Sam Rowley. “And hopefully it will happen.”
THE HOOLEY FACTOR: Albany got into the NCAAs thanks to Hooley’s 3 at the buzzer to beat Stony Brook in the America East title game. The shot came less than a month after he returned from Australia to be with his mother, Sue, who died of cancer on Jan. 30.
The story has reverberated around the globe, inspiring many.
“I’m glad that I’ve heard a lot from people saying they’ve been touched by the story and it’s helped them in many ways,” he said. “I said from the start, if it inspires one person to get through a tough time, then it’s done its job.”
PACE OF PLAY: Don’t be surprised if the Sooners come out running.
“I believe if we get the tempo up, that we’ll be able to execute what we want to do,” said TaShawn Thomas, a senior transfer from Houston who starts in the frontcourt for Oklahoma.
Also, the Sooners figure to use their bulk in the paint.
Thomas is joined underneath by Spangler. They each go 6-foot-8 and around 240 pounds, while the Great Danes start 6-11 center Richard Peters, who’s a relative flyweight at 175 pounds.
QUOTE OF THE DAY II: Hooley, one of four Aussies on the team, asked what it is that lures people from Down Under to come to Albany: “The weather.”
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