OU men's basketball: Moser hoping Sooners learn from late-game woes in season opener

Nov. 10—There were a lot of lessons to be learned for Oklahoma following its disappointing 52-51 loss to Sam Houston in their season opener Monday.

The biggest lesson? The need to close out games.

The Sooners held a 12-point lead with just over five minutes to go, but the Bearkats proceeded to end the game on an 18-5 run. The good defense the Sooners played faltered down the stretch and the offense, which struggled the entire game, couldn't overcome it.

For Moser, it came down to not executing.

"Overall, the biggest thing is you've got to understand how to close out a game," the OU head coach said Thursday. "What's a good possession down the stretch? We forced three 3s, in my opinion... That's a thing that it starts with me, teaching and having to understand what we need.

"You need good possessions, and you need stops. We had the opposite. We didn't have good possessions, and we didn't get stops. Give (Sam Houston guard Lamar Wilkerson) credit. He hit four or five threes in the second half. That's what we've got to take away. That loss can't go in vain. You can't get it back, but you can go forward going, 'This is why it happened.'

One thing that didn't help, and something the Sooners dealt with last season, was their turnover issues. The Sooners coughed the ball up 21 times and twice in the final five minutes, while Sam Houston committed just 11 turnovers.

The Bearkats worked to deny point guard Grant Sherfield from getting the ball, and his teammates struggled at times to make plays. Moser said the Sooners need to work on developing playmakers outside of Sherfield as the non-conference schedule continues.

Another thing that hurt the Sooners was their outside shooting. They made just 37 percent of their field goal attempts, including 26 percent (5-of-19) from the 3-point line.

"We talked at length in our Wednesday film session on that," Moser said. "I think we settled for OK-to-bad shots, when you've got to be getting good-to-great shots... We've got to get to the foul line. We were in the bonus, and you've got to get to the foul line more with the lead. You can't settle for jump shots when you have the lead in the bonus. That's all on me. Gotta continue to teach it.

"I was surprised we went backwards with that based on what we did in the scrimmage and the exhibition and being overseas. That's what was disappointing, we went backwards."

They've got a chance to bounce back Friday (7 p.m. at Lloyd Noble Center) against Arkansas Pine Bluff (1-1) though the Golden Lions have played well to start the season. They held an 11-point halftime advantage in their season opener against TCU before narrowly falling 72-71. They secured their first win Wednesday against Champion Christian.

They shot 13-of-29 from the 3-point line against TCU, and Moser is focused most on limiting their outside shots.

"They do a really nice job spacing the floor," Moser said. "They really space you out. They've got a really good point guard who goes downhill, and I see a team that doesn't have fear. I was just really impressed watching them versus TCU."

But ultimately, Moser is looking for his team to play better than it did against Sam Houston. He's been impressed with the mindset of the team and is confident they'll come out ready to win.

"We're going to come back like it's one [loss] and can't get it back, but basketball is a long season," Moser said. "... I thought the guys took accountability and went and practiced with an edge moving forward."

Jesse Crittenden is the sports editor of The Transcript and covers OU athletics. Reach him at jesse@normantranscript.com or at 405-366-3580