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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, November 11, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lloyd Noble Center (12,000) -- Norman, Oklahoma. Television: Sooner Sports TV. Home Record: ULM 0-0, OU. Away Record: ULM 0-0, Oklahoma 0-0. Neutral Record: ULM 0-0, OU 0-0. Conference Record: ULM 0-0, OU 0-0. Series Record: Oklahoma leads, 4-0.
GAME NOTES: The ULM Warhawks and the Oklahoma Sooners are set to tip off the 2012-13 season this afternoon at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman.
The 2011-12 season was a struggle from start to finish for ULM. The Warhawks went just 3-26 overall in Keith Richard's third season as head coach, which included a last-place finish in the Sun Belt Conference (2-14). Despite the team's terrible record, it managed to keep many contests close, losing seven games by five points or less.
While its campaign was nowhere near as dismal, Oklahoma could not find much momentum last season in Lon Kruger's first year at the helm, going 15-16 overall while finishing eighth in the Big 12 Conference with a 5-13 record. It was the Sooners' third straight season without an NCAA Tournament appearance after qualifying in four of the previous five years.
All four prior meetings in this series were played in Norman, with Oklahoma winning all four times. The Sooners last beat the Warhawks in November of 2009, 72-61.
ULM experienced a massive overhaul in the offseason, as it returns just five letterwinners from last year's squad, although the influx of new faces may not be a bad thing for a team that scored just 60.3 ppg and allowed 71.7 ppg. The only regular starter returning from last year's team is junior guard Charles Winborne, who scored 11.2 ppg while ranking fourth in the conference in three-point field goal percentage (.435). The only other returnees who saw significant playing time are guards Marclis Hansberry (5.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg) and Trent Mackey (5.8 ppg), who combined to make 20 starts in 2011-12. With extended playing time, Mackey's three-point prowess (42-of-97, .433) could give the Warhawks a deadly duo from beyond the arc. Among the newcomers are junior college transfers Amos Olatayo (6-4, 190), Jayon James (6-6, 235) and Millaun Brown (6-7, 220), all of whom expect to be part of the rotation immediately. Olatayo (Stephen F. Austin) and James (Iona) each started their careers at Division I programs.
Oklahoma wasn't exactly an offensive juggernaut in the Big 12 last season (69.0 ppg, .435), but the good news is that it won't need to worry much about chemistry at the start of this season as it returns nearly 88 percent of its scoring output. The solid core of players is anchored by senior Steven Pledger, who is the league's leading returning scorer (16.2 ppg) and second- leading returning three-point shooter (.416). The 6-4 guard was named honorable mention all-conference last season. Romero Osby also returns as one of the Big 12's best big men after averaging 12.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 1.0 bpg a season ago. Andrew Fitzgerald (12.1 ppg) was also a double-digit scorer for the Sooners, and he will begin the season as a spark plug off the bench. An impressive batch of newcomers is led by projected starters Je'Lon Hornbeak (6-3, 180) and Isaiah Cousins (6-3, 182), who are both freshmen, as well as Amath M'Baye (6-9, 208), who was named the Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. M'Baye sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, but he averaged 12.0 ppg and 5.7 rpg as a sophomore at Wyoming in 2010-11.
ULM hopes that a slew of fresh faces will help it forget a terrible season, but the truth of the matter is it still doesn't possess enough talent to compete with better teams on the road. Expect the Sooners to roll over the Warhawks in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oklahoma 80, ULM 60
11/11 10:33:12 ET
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