Senior day always emotional for Sampson

Senior's Johnnie Gilbert (pictured above) and Jaison Williams will play their final game at the Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday against Baylor (9-15, 1-12). Tip-off is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. See inside for OU head coach Kelvin Sampson's thoughts on the win over Kansas, senior day and his Sooners' matchup with Baylor. OU has won 21 straight games against the Bears and are 19-0 against Baylor under Sampson.

Saturday's game against Baylor marks the final home game season at the Lloyd Noble center, but it is also the final home game in the career's of senior's Johnnie Gilbert and Jaison Williams.

The Bears (9-15) come into Saturday's match-up currently in last place in Big 12 play at 1-15. They are led by freshman guard Aaron Bruce, who ranks third in the league in scoring at 17.8 points per game. Bruce scored 21 points against the Sooners in the teams' first meeting of the season in Waco on Jan. 15. Oklahoma won the game 65-61. Drew Lavender scored 20 points and Kevin Bookout added 19 points and 10 rebounds in the win.

Overall, the Sooners have won the last 21 games against Baylor and are 19-0 against the Bears under Sampson.

Below is a transcript of Sampson's interview with James Hale and Bob Barry Jr. Friday morning on the Sports Animal. Sampson talks about Monday's win over Kansas, the career's of Gilbert and Williams and the match-up with Baylor.

On OU's defense holding the Jayhawks to 22 points in the first half on Monday
"I thought our defense was good. The key was Kevin (Bookout) doing a great job of pushing Wayne (Simien) out and not allowing him to control that paint area, and our guards were active."

"When we're playing defense our transition game gets more and we get easy baskets and fastbreaks. That's just the way we prefer to play. When we struggle is when we don't play with great energy on defense and the game becomes half-court. No team is going to be successful just playing half-court every possession."

On the key to playing great defense
"It starts at the point of attack. I think we've struggled in that area at times this year. The first half (against Kansas) our man-to-man was really good. Then, in the second half, I thought our zone was really good.

"I don't know that we're great at one thing. We're getting where we're pretty getting good at a couple different things defensively. That's important for this team because we're not a great man-to-man defensive team like a lot of our teams have been in the past. So, we've had to be able to be pretty good at other things too."

On Senior Day with Johnnie Gilbert and Jaison Williams
"Johnnie is one of only two seniors, but a fifth-year senior. That kid has spent almost one-fourth of his life at Oklahoma. On senior day you always reflect. I reflect back to when I first saw him when we were recruiting him going into his home, going through the recruiting process and him making the decision to come to Oklahoma, and then here he is on senior day.

"I'm proud of Johnnie. He's basically already finished college. He's getting his degree in May and is only taking one class just to finish up. Technically, he's already finished. You get close to them. It always is emotional. I've had 22 senior days and they're never easy."

"Jaison Williams is a kid that the year we went to the Final Four he played against us with Xavier that year. He fell in love with our program during the process and transferred here. He plays a unique role on our team because he's probably our team jokester. He keeps everybody loose. Everybody really likes Jaison.

"They're both great kids. We have a chance to go 14-1 at home this year and we're looking forward to finishing up on a good note."

On the story of watching Gilbert play high school
"Johnnie's an inner-city kid. I think he's got about 18 kids on his team and they're playing a suburban school. They roll in there and they've got about 2,500 fans for a road game. This is at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis. They've got more cheerleaders than Johnnie's got players on the team.

"Johnnie's playing tight end on offense, defensive end on defense. His team is just horrible. They were so bad I felt bad for him. They only have one play on offense. The quarterback gets the ball and he just runs for his life. It's just run for your life left or run for your life right, or just stop. He's going to do one of the three things.

"After that game I talked to Johnnie and I said you need to take two weeks off and really think about this and quit (laughs). His team (in basketball) was going for a third-straight championship.

"But just to tell you about Johnnie, the reason he was playing football was because he felt like they needed some help. How many kids would do that? Here's a kid that's getting recruited by Rutgers, Ohio State, Tulsa, Minnesota, and he's playing football because he likes the coaches and players and he wants to help them. That's all you need to know about Johnnie Gilbert."

On Gilbert having a career night and playing more minutes than Taj Gray against Kansas
"He understands how to win. Taj had two fouls right away. Sometimes when a kid gets in foul trouble early it tends to take his aggressiveness away. Johnnie just knows how to play. He's been with us for five years and I know exactly what to expect from him.

"He's a winner. I feel very comfortable with him. If you remember in the Texas game when Taj got the technical foul and fouled out with about nine minutes to go, we won that game in the last nine minutes playing without Taj. That was Johnnie Gilbert in there.

"Johnnie doesn't have to score points to play great. Johnnie can score, but it's just not his deal. He saves us so many mistakes by putting people in the right place and thinking. He's a really smart player."

On the match-up against Baylor
"The thing I like about Baylor is they just go play. They're not real deep, but they play everybody tough. The other night in Manhattan it was 60-58 with four minutes to go. They lose by seven at Missouri. They just play everybody tough. We've got to come to play.

"We've got a three-game winning streak and a chance to make it four and get a little momentum going into next week. We want to do that, but we want to play well going into next week. We want to win the game, but we want to play well doing it."

On OU's chances of winning the regular season Big 12 title if they win their final three games
"One thing I've learned in this business is things are never as good as you think they are, and they're never as bad as you think they are. You just keep playing. We've lost some games we felt like we could've won, but we've also won some games we could've lost.

"You just play it out. Everybody goes through it. We had a three-game losing steak and now Kansas is on one. If O-State loses Sunday they're going to be on a two-game losing streak. Nobody's oblivious to it. It's important to always hang in there and never give in or give up, just keep playing.

"I've always liked this team. For this team to be 20-6 in this conference and this year, I'm really proud of this group."


Sooners Illustrated Top Stories