Sampson, Sooners excited about shot at No. 1 UConn

Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson talks about Sunday's showdown with top-ranked Connecticut. Tip-off for Sunday's nationally-televised game on CBS is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. CST.

Below is a transcript of Coach Sampsons' interview with James Hale on Sports Radio WKY earlier this week.

On the challenge of playing on the road at top-ranked UConn
"This is about as big of one as you can have. Taking a team like ours that is still a work in progress and playing the No. 1 team in the nation on the road, that's a big challenge. But we're excited about it. It's an opportunity for us for us. I don't know that a lot of people expect Oklahoma to win a game like this. And we don't even think about winning or losing the game, we just want to go play good. It's like the game in Detroit against Michigan State. Before the season started Michigan State was a top three team in the nation and Connecticut was a top three team, and we knew those were going to be tough road games. If you would've asked me if we'd be 10-0 right now after ten games, I would've said probably not. So, going to play this game this Sunday I just think sets up a great opportunity for us."

On if UConn is the most talented team in the country
"I think one through nine, I don't know if anybody is more talented. In football they give out so many different individual awards — the Nagurski, the Lombardi, the Belitnikoff, the Thorpe. In basketball, they don't give any awards out. But if they did, I think (Emeka) Okafor would get one for being the best big man in the country. (Ben )Gordon may get one for being the best guard in the country and Charlie Villanueva may get one for being the best freshmen. This is a talented, talented team.

"It sets up a huge challenge for us in a lot of different ways. I'm really curious to see how we're going to play. This will be our first true road game. We played Michigan State in Detroit and Princeton in Oklahoma City, but this is the first time we've played somebody on their home court. It will be interesting to see how our kids handle that."

On the upside of his younger players
"When you consider going into the season we have 12 players and eight of them are freshmen and sophomores and they all have had good moments, we're encouraged because we haven't had everybody play good on the same night.

"But as much as we talk about our freshmen and sophomores, the key to our team is still our seniors. This is Jason Detrick and Jabahri Brown's team. Those two guys have battled through some tough injuries and some tough times, especially this year. I think they're both playing good right now. Yesterday's (Thursday) practice was the best I've seen Jason Detrick practice and play in probably this whole season. He's going to start playing a lot better. Jabahri Brown, I think, is much improved."

"When you go on the road and play you have to have your veterans really play good. The reason we beat Michigan State was because our two best players that day were Jason Detrick and Jabahri Brown. Kevin (Bookout), De'Angelo (Alexander) and Johnnie (Gilbert) are all solid players that are having to overcome some things, but I like our team. We're not playing as good as we think we're going to play. We're working at a lot of things right now just trying to get better."

On if OU has been able to practice with its full starting lineup yet because of injuries
"No, but that may not change. We're behind the eight ball a little bit there because Kevin and De'Angelo (shoulder injuries). We can't afford to have them take contact and risk injuring that when they can't play in games. You have to choose when to have them play. We do a lot of skeleton work with them."

"I think the toughest thing is not practicing with Kevin. Kevin is a really good low post scorer and because of the way teams double him and the way teams front him and do different things, it takes timing and repetition in practice to get the ball inside to him. You just don't get in the game and throw it too him. It takes timing for that, especially where he likes it.

"We're not the only team that has injuries. We told our kids that we're not using that as an excuse, we just have to do the best with what we have and just move forward, and the guys that can practice everyday we just try to make them better."

On the play of freshman Andrew Lavender
"He has good poise and good composure. He has his freshman moments, but I couldn't be more pleased and proud of the way Drew has come in as a freshman with no college experience whatsoever and performed like he has. He's going to get tested and he's still going to have his ups and downs, but we're committed to Drew. He knows that. We have a lot of confidence in him and we're giving him the freedom to do more. I don't think that Drew's playing as good as he's going to play. But the more he plays as we get into these tough games, I think the better Drew's going to get."

On Jimmy Tobias transferring
"A transfer isn't always a bad thing. We would have liked to have redshirted Jimmy. We gave him that option and he chose not too. He wanted to play right now, and right now with Andrew Lavender, Lawrence McKenzie, Jaison Williams, De'Angelo and Jason Detrick, those are the guards that are our top five guards. I think that the upside for us is four of them are going to be back next year. We're excited about the kids we have and looking forward to them getting better."

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