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Friday, March 28, 2003
Updated: March 29, 8:33 AM ET

Butler gives OU, Ere few too many chances

By Bruce Feldman
ESPN The Magazine

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Kelvin Sampson turned to two old Oklahoma favorites to do in Butler: The Sooners' "Bubble" drill and former starting small forward Ebi Ere.

Believing his team should dominate the smaller Bulldogs on the backboards, Sampson stoked up practices this week by breaking out the dreaded hub cab that covers the rim and turned his players loose on each other.

I knew Ebi had it from the first shot he took. He penetrated, jumped high and elevated over everyone. Every time he drove to the basket, he made something good happen for us.
Hollis Price,
Oklahoma senior guard

For a team as banged up as the Sooners, what's the harm in a little more blood and a few scratches when the result is a scrappy 65-54 victory?

"We really don't like it," said OU freshman power forward Kevin Bookout.

But the Sooners sure loved what it did for them Friday night against tourney Cinderella Butler. The Sooners got an astounding 19 offensive boards -- 10 of which came from their bench -- enabling OU to outrebound Butler 39-21 and spark 25 second-chance points.

As for Ere? The 6-foot-5 senior wore a protective brace on his left wrist -- the one he broke in early March -- and scored 25 points with his right. For someone who had reached double figures once in OU's last six games, Ere was an unlikely pick to pick up the slack for a still-ailing Hollis Price.

But against the Bulldogs, he sizzled, scoring a career high in 30 minutes.

"In the huddle before the game, coach said that someone needed to step up besides Hollis (Price) tonight," said Ere. "I knew that Butler had a lot of guys smaller than me, so I tried to get to the hole and shoot it."

Ere, a guy who had averaged 18.4 ppg through Oklahoma's first 12 games this year, started deep (hitting two of his first three 3s), then worked his way in, flashing his mid-range game and strength by slicing to the goal.

Butler had no answers for OU's sixth man. He was too quick for 6-9 postman Joel Cornette, beating him by driving inside. He was too big for Brandon Miller, shooting over the top of the 6-foot pointman. And he was too smooth for Duane Lightfoot, beating him with dribble drives for a couple of and-ones.

"I knew Ebi had it from the first shot he took," said Price, who shot only 5-of-16, but did have five assists against just one turnover. "He penetrated, jumped high and elevated over everyone. Every time he drove to the basket, he made something good happen for us."

Credit Price and Sooner backcourt mate Quannas White for stifling the Bulldogs sharp-shooting guard tandem of Darnell Archey and Brandon Miller. The Butler duo finished just 3-of-12, and more importantly, just 1-of-6 from 3-point range. Archey, he of eight 3s against Louisville -- got off just three shots from behind the arc.

"We studied the tapes of Butler against Mississippi State and Louisville," said Sampson. "Then, we threw them out. That's not helping us. Because they don't know how to play against them. We watched tapes of them against teams like Wisconsin-Milwaukee because they played them all year long. They knew how to play against them."

Smart move. Of course having guys like Ere and Jabahri Brown (11 boards) coming off the bench doesn't hurt either.

Bruce Feldman is a staff writer at ESPN Magazine.

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