OU men's basketball: Sooners looking to fix rebounding issues ahead of pivotal game at TCU

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Jan. 23—There's been a few different problems for the Sooners that have come up during Big 12 play.

Last week against Oklahoma State, it was their second-half defense that hurt them. Against Kansas, they struggled with 3-point shooting.

In their latest loss against Baylor, a 62-60 defeat at Lloyd Noble Center, it was their rebounding. The Sooners were outrebounded 39-30 by the Bears, who also snagged 17 offensive rebounds that they turned into 30 second-chance points.

18 of the Sooners' 30 rebounds came from Tanner Groves and Jalen Hill, who both had nine. So while OU coach Porter Moser has preached better rebounding as they prepare for Tuesday's game against TCU, the focus has been specifically on all five players crashing the boards.

"We've talked about it a lot," Moser said. "It's one of those things where there are a lot of areas of the game I can help them with. I can help them get free off ball screens. Set up action. Run some plays to get them open. Defensively, give them schemes. Rebounding? We have to block out and go get it. I think we only had one or two missed block outs. We're blocking out, but we have to release and go get it.

"My mind goes to the Seinfeld episode. 'It's not the reservation, it's the holding of the reservation.' It's not the block out. It's the release and go get it. It's going to be the same boat versus TCU."

Their rebounding issues aren't limited to the Baylor loss. The Sooners are dead last in the Big 12 in rebounding margin (+1.2 per game) and team rebounds for the season.

In conference play, the Sooners haven't fared much. They're eighth in total rebounding, last in offensive rebounds and sixth in rebounding margin. They've been outrebounded in four of their seven conference games and opposing teams have combined for 231 rebounds to the Sooners' 223.

"I thought our defense did a lot of good stuff versus Baylor," Moser said. "We took them out of a lot of stuff. Made them miss a lot of shots, but we have to go get it. We did a lot of good things versus Baylor. We had a handful of high-lows, handful of different things we did offensively. Missed some shots. If you look at how the game started, we missed five open threes to start the game.

"We're doing some good things. But that last game was about rebounding."

Sooners head to Fort Worth for pivotal game

To prepare for the Sooners road trip to TCU on Tuesday, he watched film from last season's game in Fort Worth. Then, the Sooners held a two-point halftime lead before falling in overtime, 59-58.

The Sooners also fell to the Horned Frogs, 72-63, in Norman.

It was a good gauge for what the Sooners can expect. TCU (15-4, 4-3 Big 12) is largely the same from last season, and the Horned Frogs' starting five remains unchanged.

They excel at rebounding, ranking third in the Big 12 in total rebounds and second in offensive boards.

"They really hurt us here on the glass last year," Moser said. "If you look at what they did, they had really good numbers... We have to block out and then release and go get it and guards have to rebound down."

The focus will again be on Mike Miles Jr., who leads the Horned Frogs with 18.9 points per game this season and is second in the Big 12 in scoring. He's also second on the team in assists (2.8 per game).

"He's doing so many other things," Moser said. "He makes such good passes out of ball screens. He's seen all the ball-screen coverages... and you can see how he plays at a pace where he's seen it all and he doesn't feel like he's got to score. He's obviously scoring at a great clip. But I think he's just letting a lot of it come to him and he's making the right pass out of different ball-screen coverages."

The Sooners (11-8, 2-5 Big 12), currently on a two-game conference skid, need a win to stay viable in the Big 12.

Tipoff for Tuesday's game is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN+.

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