OKLAHOMA CITY (Ticker) -- Top-seeded Oklahoma opens play in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday when it faces No. 16 seed South Carolina State, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion.
Oklahoma (24-6) has four starters back from last year's squad that reached the Final Four before a loss to Indiana. Hollis Price, the Big 12 Player of the Year, leads the way with his 19.5 scoring average.
Price scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half on Sunday as Oklahoma survived a dismal stretch to claim its third straight Big 12 championship with a 49-47 victory over Missouri. The Sooners did not have a bucket over the final 15 minutes and nearly blew a 22-point lead before holding on.
Price nailed a 3-pointer for a 46-24 advantage with 15:05 remaining before the Sooners went cold. They missed their final 13 shots and got just three free throws to close the game.
Ebi Ere, who has come off the bench of late for Oklahoma, played last weekend with a broken bone in his non-shooting hand. Ere is the team's second leading scorer at 13.3 points per game.
Ere's injury is not the only health issue surrounding the Sooners. Price strained his groin late in Sunday's game and Quannas White has a knee problem.
The Sooners have won three of their last four first-round contests. Coach Kelvin Sampson is 3-5 in first-round games with Oklahoma.
South Carolina State (20-10) is in its fifth NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs have never won a tournament game, losing all four times by at lest 15 points.
The Bulldogs have a familiar name to basketball fans as their best player is Moses Malone Jr., the son of the former NBA great. Malone is averaging 16.1 points to lead South Carolina State.
Dustin Braddick scored 25 points and Thurman Zimmerman added 21 as South Carolina State unseated Hampton by posting a 72-67 victory in the MEAC championship. The Bulldogs converted 30-of-40 foul shots and overcame a 1-of-6 performance by Malone.
The winner will face California or North Carolina State in the second round on Saturday.