Sampson, Sooners one and done

Oklahoma's season is officially ended Thursday with an 82-74 loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Under head coach Kelvin Sampson (pictured above), the Sooners have lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament six times in 11 trips. See inside for Thursday's recap, link to box score and postgame quotes from Sampson on the loss. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Oklahoma's disappointing season finally came to end, and it did so in disappointing fashion.

The Sooners, billed as a preseason top 10 team by virtually every national media outlet in the country, were eliminated by 11th-seeded Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 82-74, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla. OU never led in the game.

Oklahoma shot 52 percent from the field, but 18 turnovers against UW-Milwaukee's pressure defense and the Panthers' 26-for-32 effort from the free throw line proved to be the difference. OU was just 5-for-8 from the line.

Terrell Everett led four Sooners in double figures with 21 points and 11 assists. However, OU's second-leading scorer, Michael Neal, finished with just three points. He was 1-for-5 from 3-point range and 1-for-8 overall from the field.

The Panthers jumped out to a 24-14 with 8:41 to go in the first half, but OU battled back and cut the lead to 33-31 at halftime.

Oklahoma would tie the game early in the second half at 37-37 and 39-39, but failed to score on back-to-back possessions and take the lead.

Wisconsin-Milwaukee would push the lead to 42-39 with 16:20 to go, but Taj Gray's dunk quickly cut the lead to 42-41 at the 15:51 mark. The Sooners stopped the Panthers on their next possession and had an opportunity to take the lead, but Gray missed a jumper in the lane and rest is history.

From that point on, the Panthers went on an 11-0 run to push the lead to 53-41 with 10:58 to go. Oklahoma would fight back again and cut the lead to 71-65 with 2:53 left, but that would be as close as they would get.

With the loss, OU head coach Kelvin Sampson's NCAA Tournament record falls to 11-11 overall. The Sooners have now lost in the first round six times in 11 trips to the Big Dance under Sampson.

OU-Wisconsin Milwaukee Box Score

See below for Kelvin Sampson's postgame press conference quotes.

Opening Statement

Sampson: "I'd like to congratulate coach Jeter and his team. I thought they were good. They outplayed us today, obviously. We didn't play good enough to win.

"I thought a key part of the game was...I thought we had some momentum going into halftime, and then I thought we had created some momentum to start the second half. David Godbold hit a three and I think it was the next four possessions we had three turnovers and did not get shots at the basket.

"We had a chance to build a lead or take the lead, because we were getting stops. I think we had four consecutive stops, but we turned the ball over three out of the four times. We just didn't get it done.

"I also thought Milwaukee was great at the free throw line. I think coming in their free throw percentage wasn't great, but today they were 26-for-32. I thought our kids hung in there. We just didn't play as well as we would've liked.

"We had some guys that really fought. They got up on us there at about the seven minute mark, but we cut it to six and with three minutes to go in the game you're down six and you still feel like you've got a chance to win the game. But we just couldn't make the plays."

On how big of a factor in the game were the missed shots down low in the first half

Sampson: "At the time it was huge. We kept coming to the timeouts saying just relax and play.

"Terrell was doing a great job inside, but we had some untimely walks, some bobbles and not finishing the plays. I can't remember their biggest lead early in the game, but a lot of that lead was attributed to us not finishing plays around the basket or making the right decision.

"I thought our kids did a good job of coming back from that. But early in game that was a factor. I also thought it was a factor in the middle of the game when they were extending their lead."

On if he can pinpoint what went wrong at the end of the season

Sampson: It comes down to...we had a great stretch. Even though we lost a game at Kansas, the game at Oklahoma State, home against Texas, at Baylor, we had a great stretch where I thought were were really playing well.

"And then we had a bunch of 1-point games where we were happy we won them, but you can tell we just didn't have our edge. And when you lose your edge it's hard to get back.

"We worked harder on that the last two weeks than we did anything else. Offensively, we felt like we could score. But competing and toughness and that area of the game, those are the things that we'll be questioning ourselves on as we head into the offseason."

On it seeming like UW-Milwaukee wanted to win the game more, and if there is anything else he could do than tell his team to just play hard

Sampson: "I think our kids tried. It's not like they didn't. They were down 12-13 points and then came back and cut it to six.

"Michael Neal is a big part of what we do. Please don't think I'm making excuses, but he just could not move today. He's a big part of what we do. When he got stuck on (Boo) Davis he got some untimely fouls and he just didn't have his legs today, especially with his achilles aching him like it was.

"It's frustrating. This has been a frustrating season in a lot of ways. I don't ever take for granted how hard it is to make the tournament, but I felt like even though we ended the season with two losses, I felt like we had new life."

"This is probably the first team of the 12 teams that I've had at Oklahoma that practiced harder than they played. I think a lot of coaches will say come gametime their kids really played hard, but this team was different.

"This team practiced hard, but come gametime we didn't always play as hard as we should have."

On not taking the lead when they had the chance to early in the second half

Sampson: "I thought that was a key stretch in the game.

"We came down and had three turnovers when we had a chance to get on top of them and maybe do some things there. But we just didn't make the plays.

"Turnovers hurt us there in that stretch."


Sooners Illustrated Top Stories