Sooner faithful cheer ex-coach

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

— Former Oklahoma University coach Kelvin Sampson not only left the Sooners in favor of Indiana, he left Oklahoma on probation for making excessive phone calls to recruits.

Even so, when Sampson - in town to see his senior son Kellen's final home game at OU - was introduced to the crowd before the game, as were family members of all the seniors, and at halftime to be honored, he received a loud ovation.

The Oklahoma fans chose to remember the good times. Sampson had the highest winning percentage (.721) of any coach in the school's history, taking the Sooners to the NCAA Tournament 10 times in 11 seasons, including one Final Four appearance and one season that ended in the Elite Eight.

Sampson saw his son, a seldom-used walk-on, start the game because of his senior status. He almost was able to see the players he recruited stage an upset over the third-ranked team in the nation. Kansas won, 67-65.

KU barely tops Oklahoma in tough conference play

The Jayhawks had a hard time with Oklahoma Monday night, but was able to come away with the road victory over the Sooners, 67-65.

Trailing by 17 points with 1:39 remaining in the first half, the Sooners stormed back to tie it at 51, but never could get the lead.

The halftime speech given by Sampson's successor, Jeff Capel, could have had a little to do with the Sooners getting back in the game.

"We talked about believing. In the first half, I didn't sense that our guys really believed that we could win," Capel said. "That was my whole halftime speech, that if we didn't believe we could win, then we shouldn't even be out there."

Oklahoma senior Nate Carter had an off shooting night, making just four of 15 field-goal attempts, but he finished with a game-high 20 points and nine rebounds.

"We feel like we could have won the game," Carter said. "They made some free throws down the stretch that at first they were missing. They made a lot of their free throws at the end of the game, and they played hard. They are the No. 3 team in the country for a reason. We matched their intensity for the entire second half after starting off slow."