Sampson says Sooners can be 'pretty good'

OU head coach Kelvin Sampson talks about OU's offensive slump, the Sooners' offensive slump and Saturday's matchup against Texas A&M.

Below are excerpts from OU head coach Kelvin Sampson's interview this morning with Bob Barry Jr. and James Hale on The Sports Animal.

On if the week off came at the right time

Sampson: Well, we'll see about that. I do think it was a good time to have a week off for our team. Any time you have a week off you like going into it after a win, especially a win that was as much needed as that one (Texas A&M).

We've had a good week. We took our team to go see 'Glory Road'. Those of you who have not seen that movie, I highly reccommend it. Tuesday was our day off. We've worked Wednesday, Thursday and we'll kind of rap things up today and play Texas Tech at noon tomorrow.

The important thing was getting Austin Johnson and Michael Neal back at practice, and it was fun watching Terrell Everett practice this week too. He's got a little bounce in his step after that last two minutes he played against A&M.

On it being a key that Johnson and Neal were able to practice this week

Sampson: Austin sprained his ankle November 5. That was the day we played an exhibition game against Northeastern. So, the last day we saw him practice up until last week was November 4. In some ways, this is November for Austin and we're just going to kind of force-feed him as many minutes as we can, as much as his ankle and conditioning will allow.

The thing that I get encouraged about with this team is we haven't played well yet. We've played a good second half against A&M, we played a good first half Villanova. We've played a good half here, a good half there, but we've yet to put 40 minutes together.

But I think that's going to come and when we do, I think this team is going to be pretty good. And that's what we keep working for.

On if the style of play in the win against A&M was acceptable

Sampson: Defensively it was (laughs). Any time you hold a team to 44 points in their gym and hold them to 37 percent field goal percentage, I think that you're doing something right.

We missed nine free throws the first half. Nine. A lot of those were three-on-one breaks, or we got the ball inside and got fouled. We had so many empty possessions where we had great possessions but we didn't make the free throw.

You have to put an asterik behind the 17 (first half points). It's not like we just missed shots, we missed a lot of free throws. That could've easily been 30, and 30 isn't breaking any records mind you (laughs).

We seemed like we were stuck in mud. The second half we shot almost 50 percent. When you're on the road against a really good defensive team, points are hard to come by. When a team sends two or three people back in transition and they double your best players every time they catch it, you've got to be creative in how you score.

The most important thing is not the combined number of points. I've yet to ever put a value on that, but I have put a value on whether you win or lose.

On if his players pay attention to the media? And are they concerned about the talk about the NCAA violations

Sampson: None whatsoever. None whatsoever. I seriously doubt if Terrell Everett gets up and reads the newspaper. I'm just taking a guess there. And I'd say that's pretty much the norm for most college basketball players. I'm not sure how much free time they have to do stuff like that.

It would be the same reaction we have...that doesn't concern me in the least. I'm more concerned about our team and working things you can control.

On the fans being concerned that the NCAA meeting in April could be bad for the program

Sampson: The only thing I'll say about that...I'll be glad when we can talk.

On if he's worried about the NCAA investigation

Sampson: I'm not worried about it in the least. The only thing I'm worried about is getting our guards to play good, make some open shots and start playing good. That is the only thing that I'm worried about.

On if he's worried about Texas Tech

Sampson: Every team we play (he's worried about). We beat Coppin St. by nine and they outscored us in the second half.

I think as we go along you can see improvement. Jerry Green looked at me yesterday and said I hope our guys play as loosey-goosey and with as much freedom and have as much fun in the game Saturday as we're having in practice this week. And that's your goal.

How do you get your practice persona, or that identity, and how do you carry it over to the games? I think the more that we practice together the better we're going to be.

When you play Texas Tech — Jarrius Jackson, Martin Zeno, Darryl Dora — those three guys were huge for them last year as they went to the Sweet 16. And they're their three best players this year. Jarrius Jackson is having a great, great year. He's one of the better guards in this league.

On how well Tech switches defensively on screens

Sampson: I remember when Larry Eustachy and Tim Floyd were at Iowa State, every time you set a ball screen whoever was defending the screener just ran up and pushed him straight up and they went behind.

Some people jump out and show in the dribble lane, which you call a hedge. Some people switch it. Every coach in our league has a different philosophy on that.

Coach Knight probably does it more the NBA way, in that once they see a screen being set they try to jump up and send you away from a screen and into the lap of whoever's guarding the screener.

There's a lot of different ways to handle the screen, but every game's different. Texas Tech's really good at it though.

On trying to get his team to relax by taking them to movies and bowling

Sampson: The thing is we used to do a lot of that in the past and nobody knew about it. I guess you have to start telling people what you're doing so they don't think the other way, huh?

On his team seeming like they're playing tight in the 11-minute stretch when they didn't score against Texas A&M

Sampson: How long was it (scoring drought at A&M)? How many free throws did we miss? About eight. How about making a free throw.

On how he keeps his composure during the scoring lulls

Sampson: The thing that keeps you going is the other teams not scoring either. I keep looking at the scoreboard, not at how many points we've scored, but we're in this thing. We've got a chance to win it.

You go into the locker room and instead of yelling and screaming about poor offensive production, we' re patting our kids on the back and telling them how great of defense they're playing and the shots are starting to fall.

On him kicking the table and leaving the court before halftime against A&M after Godbold's pass was intercepted and the Aggies hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer

Sampson: That was know what, we just forgot what color jersey we were wearing just for a minute.

On the road we wear crimson, and A&M's colors are similar. So just for a second there David thought we were wearing white. It was a great pass. I don't know that you could've led him any more. He caught it right in stride, he jumped up, got his feet set...oh, that's A&M's player (laughs).

Had he not made that shot the score would've been 19-17.

On the television camera following him into the tunnel and showing his glare at Godbold as he walked by

Sampson: Actually, what I wanted to do was compliment him on the great pass. That was the best pass we threw the hole first half.

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