Sampson says Sooners have their swagger back

OU head coach Kelvin Sampson talks about OU's turnaround, Nate Carter and Sunday's matchup against Texas. (AP Photo/Ty Russell)

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

On the chance to win a share of the Big 12 regular season title with a win over Texas and a Kansas State win over Kansas

Sampson: "Correct. There would be a three-way tie for the first, and then it would come down to how you would seed.

"Last year Oklahoma and Kansas tied for first and we were the No. 1 seed. There were only two people tied so it was any easy tiebreaker. You went head-to-head and we beat Kansas, so we were the one-seed. But we were still Co-Champions.

"If that scenario happens, I don't know what the chances are but there's still a possibility I would guess. I'm not sure what the tie-breakers are. We're just trying to get ready to play Texas."

On if this is one of the more interesting seasons he's had to coach with the preseason expectations, early Big 12 losses and four straight one-point wins

Sampson: "When we lost to Missouri and Nebraska, we thought it was something that could be fixed. We were disappointed. I don't know if anybody gets disappointed like coaches and players do. We were actually the one's doing it.

"But we felt like if we could get Michael Neal back healthy and Austin Johnson could get some seasoning, then that would help make everybody else a little bit better. I think getting those guys back, the person that benefited more than anybody else was Terrell Everett. I don't think he felt like he needed to do as much or try to do too much.

"After the 0-2 start, we have won 11 out of our last 13. These kids have a little swagger. The thing that I always thought was missing was we've always had a little swagger in our program. Regardless of what other people may have thought, we thought we were going to go beat you. And I didn't see that with this team for a long time. I think we were fighting demons and trying to live up to expectations.

"When people are patting you on the back, there's a tendency to think you're a little better than you actually are. Every year you have to prove yourself, and this team hadn't proved anything.

"I think those first two conference games kinda got us back down to reality. It's a lot easier to coach a kid after a loss sometimes than it is after you win a lot. But these last 13 games, winning 11 of them, I can see us get our swagger back."

On the emergence of Nate Carter

Sampson: "This is the Nate that we saw last year. This was the Nate that we saw even in preseason.

"It's amazing how one obstacle or one hurdle can really effect a kids' confidence. Nate was playing well, actually he was in the starting line-up before he got that really severe staff infection in his foot.

"And the 10 days that he missed were probably the most important 10 days for him because they were during the exhibition games. He didn't get to play. He needed to play when there was no pressure so he could get his confidence going. That was a big thing with him.

"Then David (Godbold) kinda got intrenched there and Nate lost some confidence on where he fit in. If you're not a starter, it's hard to give you starter minutes. Now you're having to get spot minutes here and there, and he just never got comfortable.

"What people saw against Oklahoma State and against Kansas State on Saturday, that's the guy that we thought could help us this year. Thankfully it is coming now and hopefully it this is something he can take off on."

On the matchup against Texas

Sampson: We've already played them once, so the matchups are what they are. (LaMarcus) Aldridge is...I don't know that we have an answer for Aldridge. I don't know that we matchup with them at that position.

"Sometimes the matchups aren't important. I don't know that we matched up with Kansas State real well defensively, but the flip side of that is that Taj had 23 in that game. Kevin (Bookout), I thought, played well in that game.

"Texas is so talented at all five positions. And like most teams in our league, they're a lot better at home than they are on the road. They lost to A&M on the road, they lost to Oklahoma State on the road, they lost to Oklahoma on the road. But at home they've been invincible.

"And that's where it lies. It's not the matchups that are as important as can we slow them down in there gym? Oklahoma State beat them in Stillwater, but they also lost by 30 in Austin. A&M beat them by three in College Station, but they also lost to them in Austin.

"It's not about the matchups, it's about being able to slow them down in there gym."


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