It did not take long to realize what the Big 12 conference grind is going to be like for Oklahoma and everybody else the next couple of months.
It’s going to be one possession here, one possession there. That’s what is going to separate a big win here from a heartbreaking loss there. For OU to begin conference play, it was the latter. Texas did just enough in the key moments for a 70-69 victory against the Sooners in conference opener for both teams in front of a great crowd at Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday afternoon.
Jacob Groves banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer to make it the one-point margin, as Texas already had put in the work on the free throw line to guarantee a victory for the sixth-ranked team in the country.
“The difference was the offensive rebounds,” head coach Porter Moser said. “The 50-50 balls and offensive rebounds — it was deja vu with Timmy Allen. Go watch last year’s game. Under a minute, Timmy Allen came flying in and got an offensive rebound. That was huge. We’ve got to come up with that rebound.
“We didn’t have discipline on two of Rice’s shot fakes. We know he shot fakes and left our feet and the kid made the three free throws. But I thought our guys really, to guard one of the most athletic, offensive, powerful teams in the country, I thought we really guarded them at a high level until the second half with those rebounds.”
Point guard Grant Sherfield had a game-high 22 points, but scored 16 of them in the first half. The Horns defensive pressure just never let up.
Sherfield entered the game as one of the best three-point shooters in the country, but he was only able to connect on one of seven attempts.
There is a lot that went right for the Sooners, but it’s the end result that’s all that matters as OU once again fails to move that NCAA resume needle.
“What we have to do is learn,” Moser said. “You have to know why you won or lost and address it and put it right in the bank. And turn right around again. You have to have great prep for each game. You have to be mentally and physically ready.
“I think we know why this game – the offensive rebounding in the second half. There is a lot to build on. Our defense, at times, was outstanding. You have to learn, win or lose, put it in the bank. Move on and get ready for an Iowa State team that just beat Baylor.”
Texas made all nine of its free throw attempts in the final 2:07 of the game, as OU never had a possession to take the lead in the final minute.
* It can’t always be Sherfield, and it wasn’t for the Sooners. Jacob Groves had 17 points, including making five 3-pointers in the second half.
Jalen Hill, despite having to guard Marcus Carr all game, ended up with 14 points and six rebounds and a couple of the biggest baskets of the game.
“Jalen, it was just an absolute warrior effort I thought he had when you break down some of this stuff,” Moser said. “I really think Marcus Carr is the hottest player in college basketball. You look over the last four games. What he did the other night – I don’t care what team it’s against – he hit 10 threes and to have 33 in a half.
“He’s super confident. And I thought Jalen was terrific on him. I thought offensively he did some really good things. We needed that kind of performance to beat Texas from Jalen.”
*That was an incredible crowd. Moser knows it, recognized it and hopes to see it again.
“Since I’ve been the head coach, it’s the loudest I’ve heard in there, and it made a huge difference,” Moser said. “I hope they walked out saying man, this team played really hard against one of the best teams in the country. We fell one point short.
“I’m disappointed that we fell one point short. But OU fans and OU nation, please come back. You make a difference. That became a hard place to play today. You made a difference for our guys and everything. I said that right way on the radio. Come back, please.”
* Up next: OU (9-4, 0-1) hosts Iowa State, who just upset Baylor on Saturday afternoon.