Sampson says shooting key to deep run in NCAAs

Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson throws a pass during his team's practice for their NCAA East Regional first round game on Wednesday in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma plays South Carolina State on Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for around 2:00 p.m. at the Ford Center. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – As the top seeded Sooner get ready tip-off South Carolina State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament around 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, it is interesting that OU Head Coach Kelvin Sampson believes if the Sooners shoot the basketball then they have a chance to take home the Gold Ball.

"We are not as good as we were a year ago, but that doesn't mean we can finish better than last year's team did," said OU Head Coach Kelvin Sampson. "In no way do we match up with last year's team offensively, but this year's team is a better defensive team and our will to win may be better this year than last.

"Last year we had three players that we could count on to get us 20 or close to 20 every night" Sampson continued. "Aaron McGhee was the best post scorer at the end of the year and could score inside or outside. Ebi (Ere) played at a very high level a year ago and there were many games where he carried us offensively. Hollis was outstanding as well and he could get 20 for us any night. Then you throw in Selvy (Daryan) and Jason (Detrick), who both could fuel offense off the bench and that team was a much better offensive team."

"This year we have Hollis, who we can count on to score close to 20 every night and then from the rest we more or less take what we can get," Sampson continued. "Ebi is not playing as well as he did a year ago and certainly not scoring the ball as well as he was at the end of the year. We need to get him going again and he showed signs against Missouri of coming out of his funk. Kevin (Bookout) was playing better at mid-season than he is now and he needs to turn that around. De'Angelo is playing with a lot of confidence and is capable of getting us 15 or so. Jabahri (Brown) is better offensively and we would love to get 10 or so from him. It is not Quannas's role to score, but we have seen him score a bunch when he had to. However, even in saying all of that you can tell that I am not sure where we are going to get our offensive every night, except for what we get from Hollis and that is a concern."

Will it take a major improvement from the offense for your team to make a deep run in the tournament?

"Offense is not what we about are anyway," Sampson continued. "We have always won with defense, staying poised on offense, not turning the ball over and making our free throws. Our defense has been outstanding this year and I can't think of a game where our defense cost us a victory this year. If we can shoot 45 percent in any game I think we can win each of those games. Of course, we don't always shoot 45 percent in games and we have still won a lot of those games. We didn't shoot well in the Texas game and lost that one because we didn't make our free throws late in the game. We have lost some leads late in games lately and that is a concern. If we make some shots and some free throws we don't lose those leads."

"What is happening to us is that Hollis and Quannas are getting tired late in games late in the season and nobody is stepping up to help them out," Sampson continued. "Last year Aaron or Ebi would step up and make plays and Hollis and Quannas didn't have to make all the plays down the stretch. Hollis and Quannas are in great shape, but it has been a long season and they are beat up at this point. Plus, they work so hard on defense, harder than most guards they play against, so their offense will suffer because they are not going to rest on defense. So, late in games we need other players to step up.

"Kevin had three shots that he missed against Missouri in the second half that he normally makes and he had one of those blocked. He needs to step up his game and score like he can. Jabahri needs to continue to show confidence in his game and step up and knock a couple of shots down. Ebi is beginning to show improved offense and we need him in the second half. De'Angelo fits in that category as well. If we can get a couple of shots and certainly hit our free throws then I feel we are going to go a long way in this tournament. We don't have to be as gifted offensively as last year's team, but we do need to make a couple of shots to take some pressure off of our defense."

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