Minutes from his place at the center of the mob that stormed the court at the Lloyd Noble Center when the buzzer rang Saturday afternoon, OU forward Tanner Groves took stock of the biggest win of the Porter Moser era and looked at the bigger picture .
“I think it could definitely be a turning point in our season. That win gave us a lot of confidence and I mean I think it will only push us forward in the season. This game will take us to the end march.”
His comments followed Oklahoma’s 93-69 flares from then-runner-up Alabama.
The path toward OU (12-9, 2-6 Big 12), which seizes the potential season-changing win, begins Wednesday, when the Sooners begin their first week without a ranked opponent on the schedule since Big 12 play began. Before a weekend trip to West Virginia, OU hosts Oklahoma State (12-9, 3-5) in the second leg of the 2022-23 edition of the Bedlam men’s basketball rivalry on Wednesday night.
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On Tuesday, OU announced that as winter weather is expected until the notice, all fans who “can safely attend” will be getting free entry.
“I think the fan base will fight the weather and be there,” said Moser. “All I know is this fanbase, this crowd that went haywire on Saturday. It was the best thing I’ve seen since I’ve been here. And let’s just go ahead and make a difference.”
The Cowboys’ visit to the Lloyd Noble Center comes exactly two weeks after OSU scored 48 second-half points in a 72-56 game against the Sooners on Jan. 18 in Stillwater. That loss ushered in the Sooners’ longest losing streak of the season, a three-game slip that included a 62-60 home loss to Baylor and a 79-52 loss at TCU on Jan. 24.
But if the 27-point loss to the Horned Frogs marked the Sooners’ season-to-date low, OU’s highest high came four days later in the Crimson Tide run — the program’s highest-ranking win since 2022.
It all came together for OU against Alabama.
Grant Sherfield poured in 30 points with his six assists. Jalen Hill added a career-best 26 points with eight rebounds and the defense needed to hold predicted NBA lottery pick Brandon Miller to 11 points. Groves delivered 14 points, 12 assists and one of his most prolific defensive performances in an OU uniform.
For the first time since Big 12 play began, all three of the Sooners’ key players reached their potential on the same night. Combine that with 17 team assists and advantages on the boards and in the suit, and OU pulled off perhaps their best team effort in Moser’s two seasons in the final game of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
“I think we did a lot of little things in this game that just kept adding up – and that’s the message,” Moser said on Tuesday. “There’s a reason for that, you know? It’s not just about rolling it out there. I thought we really had a lot of little things under control in this game. And that was the message (after the win).”
Victory over the Crimson Tide will mend some of the dents the Sooners’ postseason résumé took from losses to OSU, Baylor and TCU. Now, OU’s quest for a return to the NCAA tournament hinges on the momentum that continues in the final six weeks of the regular season, a mission that begins with flipping the script on the Sooners’ final meeting with OSU.
At halftime of OU’s Jan. 18 visit to the Gallagher-Iba Arena, the Sooners were leading 30-24 and looking on course for a third win in four games. Instead, the Cowboys opened the second period on a 15-5 run, utilizing 25 second-half points between Bryce Thompson and Avery Anderson to earn a 16-point victory over their state rivals.
Afterwards, Moser said it was one of the first times all season that he’d seen the Sooners’ offensive struggles seep into his team’s defense.
“I think we went out in the second half and sort of died down,” second-year guard Bijan Cortes said of Tuesday’s performance. “Nobody talked to each other and that’s just not normal for us.”
Something the Sooners have now that they didn’t have the last time they watched OSU? A defensive performance like the one OU put in against Alabama on Saturday to work from there.
As the Sooners turn the page and head into February, they do so buoyed by the statement against the Crimson Tide with a view to what lies ahead.
“I think we want to aim for March,” Cortes said. “… it was a great win. We were all excited. But I think our focus now is on this game that shows up in the Big 12 game.