Sampson says Sooners need to get swagger back

Oklahoma Head Basketball Coach Kelvin Sampson talks about his Sooners loss to Missouri and Wednesday night's game with Nebraska. Tip-off between the Sooners (17-6, 6-4) and Cornhuskers (11-10, 4-6) is set for 8:00 p.m. at the Lloyd Noble Center. OU leads the all-time series against Nebraska 101-78. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Below is a transcript of Kelvin Sampson's interview with James Hale Tuesday morning on the Sports Animal.

On the mindset of the team after the loss at Missouri
"I think the important thing for us to remember that we have a good team. The Texas Tech loss was tough and then you turnaround and go right to Big Monday (at Oklahoma State), and then the heartbreaker at Missouri.

"We're not that far away. We have good kids. I can't tell you how good our practice was yesterday in terms of effort and attitude. Those are always the things you check if you get a little skid like we just hit, but I still think that this team is going to play good basketball.

"I thought our first half the other day was really good. You jump out to a 10 or 11 point lead at halftime, and then you come out of halftime and you go up by 12 or 14, whatever the lead was. It comes down to little things. We got out-rebounded the second half, we got out-hustled. They got to loose balls and then they just started pushing up on us."

"The one thing we've really got to do when teams take us out of our sets is our guards really have to attack the rim off the dribble, be more aggressive and not let the other team dictate to us what we do offensively. Those are things that you point out and keep working at."

On why the guards don't attack off the dribble when they're coached to do so
"That's a good question. It comes down to the individual sometimes. It comes down to the situation, circumstances, personalities, being aggressive and attacking. I just thought that we're being a little too passive and non-aggressive in that situation.

"Missouri hasn't played well, but they have probably given Illinois their best game of the year and they've beat Gonzaga. It's not like they don't have good players. The three's that they kept hitting in regulation and even in overtime, I thought some of those were even contested.

"But you look back at that game and your question is fair. The question's that you're asking, and I'm sure that people are wondering about, those are questions that we have to get answered."

On not getting rebounds off of missed free throws by Missouri late in the game
"Some of that has to do with the inside blockouts, a bad bounce, and being more aggressive. Those are all things that obviously we've worked on, but obviously we've got to continue to work on and get better at."

On the need to get Kevin Bookout more shots
"He's got to get more touches, but he also got to post harder, screen better. Of all the things I was disappointed in losing about lsing and not playing as aggressive as we normally play, is the fundamental things — setting good screens, posting hard. When you're not attacking, those things look huge.

"We could sit here for 20 more minutes and talk about things we didn't do well. I didn't think there was one area of the game we excelled in, especially the last 15 minutes of the game. The first 20 minutes of the game I didn't think there was one thing in the game we weren't good in. How, all of the sudden, are you good at certain things the first 20 minutes and then the second 20 minutes you're not? It still comes down to your attitude and your effort and being aggressive and being passive.

"Our kids are trying to win, but when you go on the road and the other team gets some momentum going and the surge goes against you, it's like one team playing uphill and the other team's playing downhill. That's when you have to switch your attitude around."

On motivating the players during a slump
"We have high character kids. I don't worry about them not trying hard. If you look at the game before that against Oklahoma State, we shoot 54 percent and out-rebound Oklahoma State. Obviously, Oklahoma State and Kansas are the two best teams in this league. Then we bounce back and look at the first 20 minutes against Missouri.

"It comes down to personality sometimes and getting kids to get outside their comfort zones and not backing up when things are running at them. Put your head down and get through some adversity in the game. It's not like we were going to go in there and beat Missouri by 30. Even when we got up by 14, I said we're going to have to withstand a run and sustain our effort. But when they made the run at us we didn't push back like we normally do.

"We've had a lot of games, even this year, where we get up big on a team, they make a run at us and we come right back. Look at the Oklahoma State game at home. We get out to a huge lead early in the first half and they come back and cut it to nine at halftime, and here we came back. I didn't see that in this game.

"All these things that we're worried about and concerned and asking questions about, we've been there and done that with this team. Not teams in the past, with this team. At one point this team was 16-2.

"Sometimes when you're losing and not playing well the thing you worry about is getting their confidence back and getting that edge back. That's what we're going to keep focusing on and keep working hard to do."

On the matchup with Nebraska "Nebraska has a good team. There are no bad teams in this league. Obviously, Baylor's not at full strength, but I think everybody agrees with how good Kansas is. Well, Nebraska had the ball with a chance to beat them at Kansas. So, there's going to be no easy games for us.

"We've just got to be determined, not give in and focus on things we can control. I wish we could've had 10,000 people at our practice yesterday to watch how hard we worked going over some things we're not as good at. Our kids are getting better in certain areas. I thought two of our better players yesterday were David Godbold and Longar Longar, and that's a positive thing. I thought Drew Lavender had a much better practice yesterday.

"You're always looking to change things and make them better. You're never satisfied. Even if we were playing great, we would've never been satisfied. The key for us is to get out of this little swoon that we're in and get a little swagger to us and our mojo back.

"But Nebraska's a good team. They have good inside players and good guards. It's a game we're going to have to play well in to win."


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