Oklahoma trainer Alex Brown's motto is a blend of discipline and toughness, two staples of Sooner basketball.

"Pain is an opinion," said Brown, who has spent the past 16 years keeping the Sooners on the mend. "You must have a low opinion of it."

The past two weeks have brought a rash of injuries to Oklahoma (25-6), which needs only a victory over No. 8 seed California (22-8) in Saturday's second-round East Region game to advance to the round of 16 and, more importantly, get at least four full days of rest.

"We're a banged up a bit, there's no question about that," Oklahoma Coach Kelvin Sampson said. "But what team isn't in March?"

As the Sooners pursue a return trip to the Final Four, senior shooting guard Hollis Price, the team's leading scorer, is nursing a strained left groin suffered in the final minutes of last Sunday's Big 12 championship game. Freshman forward Kevin Bookout has strep throat, and senior forward Ebi Ere has a broken left wrist.

"A lot of it's due to fatigue," said Brown, who was named the player of the game after tending to several injuries in Oklahoma's 1997 Big 12 tournament semifinal against Missouri. "Sure, their bodies are tired, because it's a physical game and we play hard, but an injury isn't an excuse for anything."

Price logged only 11 minutes and scored three points Thursday in Oklahoma's 71-54 romp past No. 16 seed South Carolina State, his lowest total since his sophomore year.

Today, Price said he hopes to be "80 to 85 percent" against California. The Big 12's player of the year said he's "feeling better" but indicated the injury, which has a tendency to tighten up, significantly hinders his lateral movement.

"It's one of the toughest injuries I've ever faced," said Price, who has previously dealt with a severed right triceps tendon and torn right ankle tendon, both of which required surgery. "I'm just hoping and praying that it continues to heal."

Bookout, who went scoreless in nine minutes Thursday and twice left the game because he had to vomit, said today that he's feeling better.

"I don't know where I got" strep throat, said Bookout, an all-Big 12 freshman pick this year, who is averaging 9 points and 5.9 rebounds. "I didn't get it from my girlfriend."

Ere, who made only 2 of 14 shots in 27 minutes vs. South Carolina State, said he's trying to adjust to a protective cast on his left wrist.

"It's still hard to dribble," said Ere, who grabbed seven rebounds Thursday. "But I'm just trying to do whatever I can for my teammates. It's all about winning."

Ere will be particularly important against California, which is 17-1 this season when outrebounding its opponents.

Despite the injuries, Jozsef Szendrei, Oklahoma's 6-foot-9, 240-pound center from Budapest, said the bumps and bruises will only inspire the Sooners.

"We like to get down and dirty," Szendrei said. "We're not a pretty team, but neither is my haircut. We'll do whatever it takes, maybe even throw an elbow or two, to win. We're Sooners; it's our job to survive and advance."