Oklahoma basketball: Five things to know about Sooners hosting No. 1 Houston

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off its worst offensive performance of the season, men's Oklahoma basketball goes from the frying pan into the fire as No. 1 Houston comes to Norman and the Lloyd Noble Center for a game Saturday night with the Sooners.

Houston took over the top position this week in both the AP and Coaches Poll with a 25-3 overall record and 12-3 in the Big 12. This will be the first time the Cougars have ever played a game at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman. The two teams have faced each other three times on the hardwood, twice on neutral floors and once at Houston with OU leading the all-time series 2-1.

This will not be the first time at the LNC, however, for Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson, who coached the Sooners for 12 seasons 1994 to 2006 before leaving to take the head job at Indiana. Sampson is the No. 2 winningest coach in Sooner basketball history based on wins (280) behind Billy Tubbs (333).

Oklahoma missed the NCAA Tournament just one time in Sampson's tenure at OU and went to the Final Four in 2001-02. Kelvin's son, Kellen, played basketball at Oklahoma and is an assistant on the staff at Houston. Also on the Houston coaching staff are former Sooners Quannas White and Hollis Price, both of whom played on OU's Final Four team under Sampson.

Oklahoma shot an ice-cold 28 percent in the first quarter and just 32 percent for the game in losing 58-45 at Iowa State on Wednesday. No Sooner player reached double digits, and the 45 points was the fewest scored by an OU men's team since scoring 42 in a loss to Texas Tech in February 2022.

The matchup with Houston will be the fourth time in the last five game that the Sooners have faced a ranked Big 12 opponent. Oklahoma is 2-6 against ranked opponents this season. The two wins were against Iowa State and BYU, both at home in Norman.

Oklahoma is ranked 41st this week in the NCAA NET rankings. That's down from 39th a week ago.

Saturday's game will be televised on ESPN2 beginning at 7 p.m. CT. Rich Hollenberg will do the play-by-play with Chris Spatola providing analysis.

Five things to know about Oklahoma vs. No. 1 Houston

  • Houston averages 73.9 points per game, but it is the Cougars' tenacious, ball-hawking defense that enabled them to win 23 of 26 games this season. The Cougars rank No. 1 nationally in both scoring defense (allowing opponents to 56.2 points a game) and field-goal percentage defense (37.7 percent) and are 10th in forced turnovers (16.3 per game). Houston is also an excellent rebounding team. The Big 12 leaders average 14 offensive boards per contest.
  • Four Houston starters average over 9.5 points per game. The Cougars are led on offense by former Baylor star L.J. Cryer, who averages 15.3 a game, and guard teammate Jamal Shead at 13.1.
  • Oklahoma is 7-17 against teams ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 at the time the game was played but is 6-3 against AP No. 1 teams when the game is played in Norman.
  • OU junior guard Javian McCollum leads the Sooners in scoring, averaging 13.7 per game. The Siena transfer is 27 points away from reaching 1,000 NCAA Division I career points. McCollum has made 94 percent of his free-throw attempts this season (78 of 83) and ranks fourth nationally.
  • Houston is 24-1 this season when leading at halftime and 222-28 in that department under Kelvin Sampson.


The fact that the Sooners are playing at home is a plus factor, but plain and simple, Houston is a better team than Oklahoma. The Sooners will stay in the game early, but Houston is too good defensively and OU turns the ball over too much and is inconsistent offensively even on its best days. The Sooners lose back-to-back Big 12 games for the fourth time this season Houston 78, Oklahoma 59.