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Sooners host former coach, top-ranked Houston

Mar. 1—Oklahoma hasn't beat a No. 1-ranked team since Kelvin Sampson was leading the program.

On Saturday, Sampson returns to the Lloyd Noble Center, but will be looking to keep the Sooners' drought against top-ranked teams going for at least one more game. The longtime Sooners' head coach now has Houston in position to earn one of the top-four seeds in the tournament and secure a Big 12 regular season title in the Cougars' first season in the league.

The Sooners welcome Houston to the Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday at 7 p.m. in their first and possibly last game as conference foes.

A lot of Houston's success this season has been credited to its defense, and for good reason. The Cougars are ranked first nationally in KenPom's defensive efficiency, and are also first in scoring defense (56.2 points per game), scoring margin (+17.7), opponent field goal percentage (.377) and turnovers forced (8.7 per game).

Sampson uses an aggressive defensive scheme that puts ball handlers in difficult positions when coming off the pick and roll. This has often led to turnovers and rushed 3-pointers, which the Cougars can turn into fastbreak offense.

Still, despite all the attention the Cougars' defense is getting, their offense is also incredibly efficient, ranking 18th nationally in KenPom's offensive ratings. Only four other teams in the country are ranked in the top 20 in both KenPom's offensive and defensive ratings.

Four of their five starters have averaged in double figures this season and all four have scored at least 20 points in two or more games this season.

Still, the Cougars enter Saturday's game during a tough stretch in which four of their last five games have been decided by single digits. This is their first week all season holding the No. 1 spot.

They were the top-ranked team for seven weeks last season and are 34-5 all-time when ranked No. 1.

The Sooners are 7-17 against AP top-ranked teams all-time, but have a 6-3 record when those games are played at home.

Tarik Masri is the sports editor for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing tarik@normantranscript.com