- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 29, 2003

ALBANY, N.Y. Ebi Ere was Oklahoma's forgotten man. Not anymore.
Ere, playing with a broken bone in his left wrist, scored 25 points as the top-seeded Sooners ended Butler's surprising run with a 65-54 win last night in the semifinals of the East Regional.
Oklahoma (27-6), Big 12 champion for the third straight year, is one step from its second consecutive Final Four. The Sooners will meet either Syracuse or Auburn tomorrow for a berth in New Orleans.
Butler (27-6), regular-season champions of the Horizon League, was the lowest-seeded team left in the tournament after pulling off two big upsets. The 12th-seeded Bulldogs edged fifth-seeded Mississippi State 47-46, then beat fourth-seeded Louisville 79-71.
The only 12th seed ever to advance to a regional final was Missouri, which beat No. 8 UCLA in the round of 16 last year before losing to No.2 Oklahoma in the West Regional final.
Butler lost because it never got its perimeter game going against the active Oklahoma defense, which held the Bulldogs to four of 13 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.
The screens that had worked so well before never clicked, and Butler had to go inside to score. And when the Bulldogs missed, there weren't many second chances Oklahoma dominated the glass 39-21, including 19 offensive rebounds.
Senior center Joel Cornette led the Bulldogs with 21 points and eight rebounds. Darnell Archey, who hit eight 3-pointers in the win over Louisville, scored six points and attempted only three 3s. Duane Lightfoot, Butler's other big man, had eight points and Brandon Miller and Mike Monserez each had seven.
Butler was more worried about Hollis Price, the Sooners' leading scorer who was nursing a tear in his left groin. Oklahoma made it to the round of 16 with virtually no production from Price, who averaged 19 points during the season. He had only eight points in the tournament before Friday but said he was 99.9 percent for this game.
He was. Price had 12 points and five assists, but it was Ere who was the hero. Ere, who asked coach Kelvin Sampson to take him out of the lineup in January after his production had plummeted, scored 10 points in the final four minutes of the first half. And when the Bulldogs rallied to within 50-47 on a 3 by Monserez with 6:15 left, Ere hit a tough shot in the lane over Lightfoot, was fouled, and hit the free throw to put the Sooners up 53-47.
Ere, who also had eight rebounds, followed that with a hook at 5:20 after dribbling across the lane, and Price fed Kevin Bookout for an easy layup to boost the lead to 57-49 with 3:16 to go. Bookout finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Butler, unable to stage one last rally, had made a game of it behind Cornette. After Ere's jumper from the left wing gave the Sooners a 40-28 lead at 14:44, Cornette scored nine of Butler's next 11 points. His reverse layup with 9:53 left moved the Bulldogs to 44-39.
Neither team led by more than three points in the first 15 minutes, but after Cornette's free throw tied it at 20, the Sooners began to assert themselves, dominating the glass and riding Ere's scoring. Oklahoma held a 19-9 edge on the boards at the break, 12 on the offensive glass, and had 20 second-chance points to none for Butler.
Archey, guarded much of the time by Price, missed his only 3-point attempt in the first half and hit his only shot from beyond the arc 46 seconds into the second period.

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