UH coach Kelvin Samp­son ex­pects Ok­la­homa State fans to “give him the busi­ness.”

Cougars’ coach says fans link him with Ok­la­homa

Houston Chronicle - - SPORTS - By Joseph Duarte [email protected] twit­ter.com/joseph_­d­uarte

Twelve years have passed since Kelvin Samp­son last sat on the bench at Ok­la­homa, but even that is not enough time.

For the first time since leav­ing Ok­la­homa af­ter the 2005-06 sea­son, Samp­son re­turns to a Big 12 out­post when the Univer­sity of Hous­ton plays Ok­la­homa State at 3 p.m. Satur­day in Still­wa­ter, Okla.

Samp­son al­ready knows what kind of re­cep­tion he will get from the Gal­lagherIba Arena crowd that still as­so­ciates him with the crim­son and cream of the hated ri­val school 90 miles down the road in Nor­man.

“They will give me the busi­ness,” Samp­son said.

Even a dozen years later? And with a new school?

“I’m a Sooner in their eyes,” he added.

Samp­son does not seem to mind. It is, af­ter all, what makes col­lege ath­let­ics spe­cial.

“That’s OK,” he said with a smile. “That just means they care about their school.”

Years later, Samp­son still re­calls the “epic meet­ings” with Ok­la­homa State and leg­endary coach Ed­die Sut­ton. To this day, old Gal­lagher-Iba Arena — which was ex­panded at the end of the 1999-2000, but not be­fore the Soon­ers closed the build­ing with a 59-56 win — still re­mains “the tough­est venue of any­where” Samp­son has coached in a 30-year ca­reer that has spanned the Pac-10, Big 12, Big Ten and AAC.

“Part of that was who they were play­ing that night,” Samp­son said. “Ok­la­homa and Ok­la­homa State don’t take a back­seat to no­body. Those two schools hate each other.”

It’s that type of at­mos­phere the Cougars must be care­ful if they are to im­prove on a 7-0 mark that is tied for the third-best start in school his­tory.

This will be UH’s first game against Ok­la­homa State since the 1965 NCAA Tour­na­ment Mid­west re­gional in Man­hat­tan, Kan.

One of 11 cur­rent un­beaten men’s teams in col­lege bas­ket­ball, UH al­ready owns wins over BYU and then-No. 18 Ore­gon. Af­ter Satur­day, the Cougars play the next seven games at home, where they have won 21 straight games be­tween Texas South­ern’s H&PE Arena and the re­cently-opened Fer­titta Cen­ter.

Against Ok­la­homa State, UH will wel­come back guard De­Jon Jar­reau, who missed six games while nurs­ing an in­jured finger and serv­ing a sus­pen­sion for an undis­closed team rules vi­o­la­tion. In ad­di­tion, the Cougars con­tinue to get back to full strength with for­ward Fabian White Jr. ex­pected to in­crease his min­utes for the third straight game fol­low­ing off­sea­son foot surgery.

Much of the pregame at­ten­tion, how­ever, is ex­pected to be on Samp­son. In 12 sea­sons at OU, Samp­son went 281-107. The Soon­ers won one Big 12 ti­tle and three Big 12 tour­na­ments, made the NCAA Tour­na­ment 11 times and one trip to the Fi­nal Four. Samp­son left for In­di­ana af­ter the 200506 sea­son.

“It’s prob­a­bly go­ing to be more of Ok­la­homa coach Samp­son,” said Hol­lis Price, UH’s di­rec­tor of player de­vel­op­ment and a for­mer Al­lAmer­i­can who played for Samp­son at OU. “We’re go­ing in there with a dif­fer­ent team and that’s the Univer­sity of Hous­ton. We’ve cre­ated some­thing here, and hope­fully we can take that on the road.”

While at OU, Samp­son went 12-14 against Ok­la­homa State, in­clud­ing just 3-9 in Still­wa­ter. Many of the meet­ings game against Sut­ton, who won more than 800 games in his ca­reer. For his all suc­cess, Sut­ton still has not been se­lected for the Nai­smith Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame.

“He’s one of those guys he doesn’t have to be in the Hall of Fame to be a Hall of Famer,” Samp­son said. “In my eyes, he’s a Hall of Famer. I have so much re­spect for him and his fam­ily.”

As for the chilly re­cep­tion as he walks on the court Satur­day?

“They have great fans,” Samp­son said. “They re­ally do.”

Brett Coomer / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Kelvin Samp­son is ready for a wel­com­ing when he makes his first visit to Ok­la­homa State in 12 years on Satur­day. “They will give me the busi­ness,” he said.

Ed Zurga / AP

Samp­son’s Ok­la­homa teams went 3-9 in Still­wa­ter.

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