Sampson: "This is an important game for us"

Kelvin Sampson talks about Oklahoma's All-College Classic matchup against West Virginia. The Sooners (6-1) and Mountaineers (6-3) will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. (CST) at the Ford Center Thursday night in Oklahoma City. The game will be televised on ESPN2. (AP Photo/Jerry Laizure)

Kelvin Sampson and his 7th-ranked Oklahoma basketball team will get their second toughest test of the year Thursday night against West Virginia in the All-College Classic at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.

The Mountaineers, who return five starters from last year's team that lost to Louisville in the Elite Eight, began the season ranked No. 14 but have dropped out of the polls after their 6-3 start. However, two of their losses have come by a combined four points — 76-75 to Texas in Kansas City and 71-68 to LSU at home. They also lost to Kentucky 80-66 in Kansas City.

West Virginia ranks No. 2 nationally in 3-point shots made (101), No. 2 in turnovers (9.7 per game) and fouls per game (11.4).

Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. (CST) and will be televised on ESPN2. Brad Nessler and Fran Fraschilla will call the action.

See below for Sampson's comments on the Mountaineers from his Sports Animal Interview with James Hale and Bob Barry Jr. Wednesday morning.

On West Virginia:

Sampson: The loss to Texas they missed three one-and-one's in the last 20 seconds. So, that was a game that they're probably kicking themselves for not winning, and then they lose to LSU in overtime. They're probably two points away from only losing one, and that was against Kentucky.

Their scheduled has a little bit to do with it. Usually, a teams' record this time of year is a reflection of their schedule, and West Virginia has played a tough, tough schedule.

The team that lost Louisiville, they were up 20-something on Louisville last year and the main guys — (Mike) Gansey, (Kevin) Pittsnogle, (Johannes) Herber, (Frank) Young — they've got the same cast of characters back.

This is an important game for us because we need to play really good against a good team, and West Virginia certainly qualifies as a really good team.

On the matchup against the Mountaineers

Sampson: It will be interesting how Kevin (Bookout) matches up with (Kevin) Pittsnoggle, because he's 6-11, about 260, and he's a great 3-point shooter. The more you watch him on tape, he's comfortable out there. He's got a great release, he knows how to pick and pop. He knows how to step in behind (a screen) and catch it and shoot it.

Their wings, Gansey and Herbert, are both are in about the 6-4, 6-6 range, and 215 pounds. Even though they're both great 3-point shooters, the thing that bothers people is they put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. So, Michael Neal, Terrell and David Godbold, those guys are going to have their hands full matching up with them.

Then they play a 1-3-1 (zone defense). The 1-3-1 years and years ago was a pretty common zone defense, but not a lot of people play it anymore. So when you see something you haven't seen a lot it takes you a while to adjust to it.

But we've had a good week of practice. Our kids have really prepared well for this team and we're looking forward to playing a really, really good West Virginia team.

On OU's injury situation

Sampson: We're a little nicked up with injuries, nothing major. Austin Johnson has not practiced since the Southern game Saturday. I didn't play him in the second half because he tweaked his ankle again.

That thing just keeps bothering him, but hopefully we'll be able to get a few minutes out of him on Thursday. And if not, that's just more rest for him and hopefully we can have him back for the Oral Roberts game on the 28th.

On Terrell Everett taking over officially at the point

Sampson: Yeah, we're going to start Terrell (at point guard), Michael Neal, Kevin and Taj (Gray). I feel good about those four starters. The other spot just has to solidify itself.

David and Nate (Carter) have both been really inconsistent at this point, and when one of them gets consistent and takes the job it will be his. But right now, we're just going back and forth with it until one of them can be consistent.

West Virginia Projected Starters:
F -- 20 --Mike Gansey -- 6-4, 205, Sr. -- 19.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.9 apg
F -- 21 --Frank Young -- 6-5, 225, Jr. -- 7.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.1 apg
C -- 34 --Kevin Pittsnogle -- 6-11, 250, Sr. -- 18.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg
G -- 1 -- J.D. Collins -- 5-10, 180, Sr. -- 4.7 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 4.3 apg
G -- 5 -- Joe Herber -- 6-6, 215, Sr. -- 8.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 6.4 apg

Oklahoma Projected Starters:
F -- 21 --Taj Gray -- 6-9, 238, Sr. -- 14.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg
F -- 34 --Kevin Bookout -- 6-8, 270, Sr. -- 12.7 ppg, 6.9 rbg
G -- 15 --David Godbold -- 6-5, 217, So. -- 5.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg
G -- 3 -- Terrell Everett -- 6-4, 188, Sr. -- 11.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 6.3 apg
G -- 2 -- Michael Neal -- 6-3, 191, Jr. -- 11.4 ppg, 3.0, rpg, 2.4 apg

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