Saturday, March 23, 2002

Big 12 pride on the line


Sampson's dad improving

By ANNE M. PETERSON
AP Sports Writer

        SAN JOSE, Calif. — Nothing would keep them out of the West Regional final — certainly not a few bumps and bruises.

        Missouri point guard Clarence Gilbert dislocated his left ring finger in the Tigers' 82-73 upset of UCLA on Thursday night, and Oklahoma guard Hollis Price hurt his ankle in the Sooners' 88-67 victory over Arizona.

        The 12th-seeded Tigers (24-11) face No. 2 Oklahoma (30-4) in the West Regional final Saturday.

        Gilbert dislocated his finger in the opening seconds against the Bruins. At first it didn't bother him, but when he looked at his finger, he screamed. It stuck out at a funny angle.

        “It looked like a K,” he said.

        One of the trainers popped it back into place, and Gilbert went on to score 23 points. The finger was taped Friday, too, and Gilbert had not yet tested it in practice.

        Not that it would matter.

        “I happened to dislocate my finger,” he said. “And I have to play.”

        Hollis said Friday his right ankle was still sore. Late in the first half against Arizona, he suddenly began to limp and wince with each step.

        He finished with 26 points against the Wildcats, but 22 of those came in the first half. His teammates Aaron McGhee and Ebi Ere took over in the second.

        “Sometimes I come down wrong and I tweak it a little, but that's all it was — just a little tweak,” he said. “I was sitting on the bench for a minute or two, but that just got me going again.”

        ———

        BIG 12 TRIUMPH: The Big 12 teams feel as though they are finally getting some respect.

        Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said that throughout the season, the focus in the Big 12 was on perennial favorite Kansas, as well as former Indiana coach Bobby Knight's new job at Texas Tech.

        Teams such as Oklahoma and Missouri — especially after the Tigers' fall from the Top 10 — got overlooked.

        “I'm really happy for the Big 12, and I mean that sincerely. One of the early questions was why we weren't getting any respect. I think we are getting that respect now,” Sampson said.

        Four Big 12 teams — Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Texas — advanced to regional semifinals.

        “We've got four teams left in the Sweet 16, and that shows the toughness of our conference,” Missouri's Kareem Rush said Friday.

        Tigers coach Quin Snyder said all the Big 12 teams “really share in each other's success.”

        “People really want to see the other teams perform well — we recognize that we need to do that in order to become one of the elite leagues,” Snyder said. “I think we are one of the elite leagues now.”

        ———

        SAMPSON'S FATHER: Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson's father, John, remained in intensive care Friday at a local hospital after emergency surgery to drain blood from his brain.

        The elder Sampson, known as “Ned,” fell ill during the team's practice on Tuesday in San Jose. Late that night, he underwent surgery for a subdural hematoma.

        “He's tough. He's battling through it,” said Kelvin Sampson, who cried during a press conference Wednesday.

        Ned Sampson was a high school basketball coach for 30 years. He launched his son's basketball career, coaching him at Pembroke High School in North Carolina.

        “Mr. Ned is a wonderful guy,” Oklahoma guard Hollis Price said. “Every time he comes up to Norman, he gives us a boost of energy. Coach hasn't said anything about his dad, but it's in the back our minds.”

       



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