Thursday , Mar , 16 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Panthers and Sooners clash in first-round of NCAA Tournament

=== Panthers and Sooners clash in first-round of NCAA Tournament ===

(Sports Network) – Appearing in their second straight NCAA Tournament, the
Panthers of Wisconsin-Milwaukee take their automatic bid to the event and
use it to challenge the Oklahoma Sooners at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial
Arena as part of the Minneapolis Regional. As the 11th seed this time
around, the Panthers are trying to replicate their success from last year
when they stormed into the Sweet 16 with victories over Alabama and Boston
College before falling to the eventual runner-up to the national title,
Illinois. This year, UWM had the best record of any squad in the Horizon
League at 12-4 and was 21-8 overall thanks to topping Butler in the
conference championship game nine days ago, 87-71.

As for the Sooners, the sixth seed is making its 24th trip to the 68th annual
event. Under 12-year head coach Kelvin Sampson, OU is in the tourney for the
11th time, with the program making it all the way to the Final Four in 2002
before losing to Indiana. Overall the Sooners are 31-23 in the
tournament, compared to just 2-2 for the Panthers. As far as the 2005-06
campaign was concerned, the Sooners lost back-to-back outings just once during
the regular season. However, following a 72-48 blowout loss to Texas in the
regular season final, the Sooners dropped a 69-63 decision to Nebraska in the
Big 12 Tournament.

Following this first-ever meeting, the winner will move on to second-round
action on Saturday where they will challenge either Florida or South Alabama.

UWM led the conference in scoring this season with 74.2 ppg, one of only two
schools in the Horizon League that posted more than 69 ppg. When coupled with
a sufficient scoring defense that allowed 65.7 ppg, the Panthers were first in
the conference in scoring margin at +8.5 ppg. Wisconsin-Milwaukee was second
in the league in three-point shooting defense, allowing opponents to convert
31.9 percent of those chances, which led to a multitude of rebounds that
resulted in the Panthers placing first in the HL with 38.6 rpg this season.
For the second straight season Joah Tucker was named a First-Team All-Horizon
performer, in addition to being named a Mid-Major All-American, as he tallied
a team-high 16.4 ppg and was second on the squad with just over six rebounds
per game. Except for Adrian Tigert, who missed a pair of games this year, the
Panthers kept the same starting lineup for all 29 games this year. Tigert, who
led the unit with 7.4 rpg, was third on the team in the scoring department
with 12.9 ppg as he shot 54.8 percent from the field. Boo Davis was
responsible for another 16.2 ppg and just under five rebounds per game and
paced the group with 40 steals.

For the most part, Oklahoma landed in the middle of the pack when it came to
most of the Big 12 stats this season. On the positive side, the Sooners were
first in rebounding defense among the schools, giving up just 27.5 rpg, but
then again the squad was last in terms of stopping opponents from behind the
three-point line, giving up 39.4 percent of those opportunities. Oklahoma had
a huge presence at home this season, winning all but one of 15 outings. The
team was especially tough versus non-conference opponents (9-3), albeit
achieving that mark against a rather soft non-league slate. Taj Gray, the
team’s leading scorer with 14.2 ppg, took advantage of those meetings to feed
his stats, finishing with a team-high 7.6 rpg as well. Shooting 57 percent
from the floor, Gray obviously stayed close to the paint, which is also why he
recorded 42 of the unit’s 96 blocked shots. Terrell Everett and Kevin Bookout,
who both started all 28 games for the Sooners as well, chipped in with 12.4
and 11.1 ppg, respectively. Everett shot just 39.8 percent from the floor and
31.3 percent beyond the arc, but he made up for those inadequacies with a
team-high 188 assists. His average of 6.7 dishes per game ranked first in the
Big 12 and fifth nationally overall this year.