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OU men's basketball: Sooners celebrate playoff berth, look to continue out-of-conference success

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Junior forward Kristian Doolittle prepares to drive in the game against Kansas March 5.

After seeing his team on the big screen in the Lloyd Noble Center Sunday night, graduate transfer point guard Miles Reynolds jumped into the arms of redshirt senior Jamuni McNeace as the team celebrated a bid in the NCAA Tournament. It's Reynolds' first time with a spot in the tourney.

"I'm really happy for (Reynolds)," junior forward Kristian Doolittle said. "I experienced my first NCAA Tournament last year."

Oklahoma (19-13, 7-11 Big 12) has landed a spot as the No. 9 seed in the South region, and is set to play No. 8 Ole Miss in Columbia, South Carolina, Friday at 11:40 a.m.

"We'll study a bunch of film tonight," said head coach Lon Kruger after learning he'll be a part of a sixth tournament bid in seven years. "And practice tomorrow and Tuesday before leaving on Wednesday and being in Columbia for Thursday and Friday."

Although going through late season struggles — a five-game losing streak and a first-round exit out of the Big 12 Tournament — the Sooners have a lot of confidence going into Friday. As opposed to Big 12 play, the Sooners are 12-1 out-of-conference, a huge reason why the team got a bid in the first place.

"I would definitely say playing somebody else outside of the Big 12 is a nice change," Doolittle said. "The Big 12 is very tough. Every game isn't guaranteed. There's a new focus going into this game. Not only is it somebody out of conference, you're playing for a little more."

The Ole Miss Rebels will be OU's third SEC opponent of the season, the first being a neutral site win against Florida back in November and a win against Vanderbilt back in January. Ole Miss lost to Alabama in the second round of the SEC Tournament. After spending the last three months in Big 12 play, the Sooners are looking to continue their success in out-of-conference play.

"When you go through a long season you're going to face adversity," James said. "We found ourselves. We know what we're capable of."

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