Sampson anxious to see Sooners play on the road

OU Head Coach Kelvin Sampson talks about the state of his Sooners and tonight's matchup against Purdue. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN. Junior forward Taj Gray (pictured above) is OU's second-leading scorer with a 13.2 ppg average.

The Oklahoma Sooner Men's Basketball team goes on the road to play a big game against Purdue Wednesday night. Before boarding the charter to take the Sooners to Purdue, OU Head Coach Kelvin Sampson talked to OUInsider.com about the team and the upcoming game.

JH: You and Gene Keady are good friends and have played each other for a number of years. Coach Keady is going to retire after this year, so will you continue this series after this year?

KS: "We like to rotate our non-conference games, but maybe at some point. We would like to add other teams and we are talking to some schools about starting a home-and-home series, and television will dictate some of that. We have great respect for Purdue and Gene Keady and Matt Pointer, who is going to succeed Gene after this year. He is an outstanding young coach and that is something that we will look at in the future, and if not Purdue then another really good team."

JH: This is always great match-up between two teams that are similar, as both begin each game wanting to win the defensive battle.

KS: "Last year's game was somewhat of an anomaly. We had scored 80 something points and beat Michigan State right before that and then we come back and score 46 points and beat Purdue. I don't think this game will be as low scoring as that because I think Purdue is a lot better offensively this year, and I think we are to. Defense will dictate this story along with rebounding. If we defend and rebound and keep them off the boards then I like our chances. As you well know James, when you go on the road you have to make shots. I think we are more equipped to do that this year, but we have to get good point guard play and we have to get mentally tough to go on the road and win a big game."

JH: How has practice gone for you since the Coppin State game?

KS: "I think it has gone pretty good. For the last two weeks our practices have been to prepare for our next opponent. We haven't had time to work on Oklahoma or make our kids better. We do a lot of drills and stuff, but basically we prepare for the team. We had the week in Alaska where we prepared for those three games, then we come back on Sunday and then Monday and Tuesday we got ready for Coppin State.

"We gave our kids some time off after the Coppin State game, but Saturday, Sunday and Monday were days that we worked on Oklahoma. I saw a lot of improvement in those three days, and I think for this early in the season we are going to play well. I am anxious to see how we go out and play in our first true road test."

JH: You are beginning to get a little flexibility at guard because Terrell Everett can also play the point. How is Brandon Foust coming along on the wing and is Lawrence McKenzie eligible to play in this game?

KS: "Drew will be our starting point guard tomorrow night. We are going to start Drew and Terrell, and I am not quite sure about that third spot. Brandon (Foust), Lawrence and Jaison (Williams) will all play. Lawrence got his deal resolved and the one-game suspension was penalty that fit the crime. That wasn't all they had to do. Those guys will tell you that missing a game was tough on them, but maybe the other stuff they had to do was tougher. They broke a team rule as well as other stuff, but we put a lot of stuff on those kids. They all have done it and all three will play tomorrow night.

"We are still evolving as a team. Terrell has played five games during his career at Oklahoma. He is still figuring things out and getting better. We have a new system in this year, doing a lot of the same stuff, but we have added some new stuff. All of the new guys are trying to adjust to it. I see improvement and that is what you look for at this time of year. We have to ask ourselves if we are getting better, and I think we are."

JH: What are the keys to beating Purdue?

KS: "A key match-up is going to be Terrell Everett and David Teague. However, the key match-up for the whole game will be Taj Gray against Carl Landry. Those two guys were outstanding junior college players coming into the Big 10 and Big 12. Taj is going to have to hold his own on the road. Carl is an outstanding player. Matt Kiefer is a 6-10 center who Kevin (Bookout) is going to have to keep off the boards. Kevin will have to go out on the perimeter a little bit because Keifer likes to shoot. His range is from 17 to 20 and he will shoot some three's. Then Drew and (Brandon) McKnight will be important as well. All of those match-ups will be important, but our kids are ready to play and I think they are really excited about this game."


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