It’s literally been less than two weeks since Oklahoma fans stormed the floor at the Lloyd Noble Center after the 93-69 win against then No. 1. 2 Alabama.
First, it seems like ages ago. Second, it feels like one of the most unlikely results in all of college basketball this season.
Because after that game there were different directions for the Sooners and the head coach Porter Moser.
OU was able to build on that win, play with confidence and achieve some winning ways in Big 12 play? Or Bama could be a standalone moment, and the Sooners could fall flat on their faces?
In the two games since then, it was the last. Two losses (vs. Oklahoma State, in West Virginia) by 42 total runs.
Let’s stop talking about NCAA tournaments at this point. OU needs to look like a functional team again, as it didn’t last week. When OU took the first blows from the Cowboys and Mountaineers, there was no fighting back.
And then came this rumor Tuesday, about Moser and the Notre Dame head coaching spot.
Since Mike Brey announced his retirement from the Irish at the end of this season, it has been very easy to connect the dots for Moser. Back to the Midwest where he coached and lived for years and understands how to recruit the area.
It makes sense, but the rumor spoken out loud was the first time it really touched on whether this could be Moser’s last matches in Norman.
OU is 12-11 overall and a woeful 2-8 in Big 12 play, and if you can put aside the ND rumors for a second, here’s what the Sooners can try to get out of this funk.
Even if OU is running, it might not matter. OU’s next four games are against teams ranked in the top 15, including heading to No. 14 Baylor on Wednesday night. Then it’s home vs. No. 9 Kansas, No. 12 Kansas State, and No. 5 Texas. Wow.
But this is where it has to start for the Sooners.
*Be strong, physically and mentally
“It just has to start with full focus and toughness and consistent effort before you try to throw up the magic dust and try to change lineups,” Moser said. “We can make some subtle changes, but we are not going to reinvent the wheel. It has to start with consistency, toughness, enthusiasm, togetherness.
“We have done things. We’ve been there in terms of competing and beating some of the best teams. And we haven’t played well in two weeks, except for one game. We need to get back to why we’re good. We have to go back to grit. Passion. Believe. We have to bounce back. That’s our message, man. Believe. Togetherness. Grain. And that’s what I didn’t see. We will come back to that.”
Yes, a lot of it must be a mindset issue. It has to be mental toughness and springiness when running, but there are some personal moves that can help.
* Get your athleticism in the game
Granted, it’s not much for OU, but the Sooners have a few special athletes in freshmen Otega Oweh and transfer guard Joe Bamisile.
Oweh has been working his way to getting more minutes in recent weeks, but Bamisile was missing for nearly all of 2023 before playing his first first half minute of the conference season at Morgantown.
“The message with Joe — and we’ve been in constant communication with him — is the intensity, effort, and the offensive and defensive efficiency,” Moser said in a question from SoonerScoop.com on Tuesday. “All three of these areas have been better over the past 2-3 weeks. We went into that game knowing Joe was going to be in early rotation. And you’ll see him again in Baylor.”
The Bamisile saga has left media and fans alike scratching their heads. Here’s a man who scored more than 16 points per game at George Washington last season and can’t even smell meaningful minutes so far.
Moser has previously said he needed Bamisile to become more invested in offense and defense, especially with his one-on-one defense. And Bamisile may falter a few times in that department, but what he can do athletically is unmatchable.
You think back to his block vs. Arkansas or at WVU, no one else on this team can. You have to take the good with the bad, but there’s a lot of good with Bamisile that we’ve never seen.
*Come out, Tanner
OK, maybe Bamisile and Moser just didn’t match. But how do you even try to explain what happened to Tanner Groves?
Not only was he supposed to be the vocal leader for the Sooners, but a solid No. 2 option every night to go point guard Grant Sherfield.
Instead, he’s been as inconsistent as anyone, and it’s as confusing as it gets. In 11 minutes Saturday, Groves had two points, zero rebounds and five errors.
“That’s exactly the message we talked to him about,” Moser said. “You can’t have mindless fouls. If you get an effort foul, you get a foul. But you can’t have a mindless one. He just grabbed a guard with both hands on a back cut. He just came down (for an) offensive rebound while he looked at the thing and just ran over a man He is so important to us.
“The message has been sent. We talked to them about it a lot. He just needs to be smarter. You can make a few fouls, but no stupid fouls. That’s the message.”
Against Bama, Groves had 14 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. In the TCU blowout for Bama and last week (three games), Groves had 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks combined.
That’s not going to work. Time is running out for Groves. Time is running out for OU and for Moser to try to get this back in the right direction.