NORMAN — Porter Moser got his packed crowd, and he delivered his first signature win.
In front of a packed, raucous student section, the Oklahoma Sooners upset the No. 14-ranked Florida Gators 74-67 on Wednesday night in the Lloyd Noble Center.
Far from straightforward, OU saw a 10-point lead evaporate over the final three minutes. But unlike against Utah State, the Sooners were able to rally over the final minutes to close out the game.
The trio of Tanner Groves, Jalen Hill and Umoja Gibson proved to be too much for the Gators, as OU’s three leading scorers combined to score 53 points, delivering the first win of the Moser era against a ranked opponent.
Groves led the way with 20, followed by 18 points from Hill and 15 points from Gibson.
From the opening tip, the Gators struggled to match the energy inside the arena. OU brought great defensive intensity out of the gate, sprinting out to a 9-0 lead and starting the game on a 14-4 run.
“I thought our start defensively set the tone,” Moser said after the game. “They believed that they could compete and win with this team.”
Florida coach Mike White burned a timeout, settled the troops and the Gators then relied on their defense to steadily work their way back into the game.
As Florida converted on the offensive end, it allowed them to set up their full-court press, which frustrated the Sooners for much of the first half.
“What great teams do, they punch back, which is what Florida did,” Moser said. “But it seems that every time, we bounced back. The crowd helped us bounce back. They got behind every good play.
“They did not relax, the crowd. Let’s just keep going.”
Florida cut the halftime deficit back down to just one point before OU’s defense took over the game.
After a back-and-forth start to the second half, the Sooners held the Gators without a field goal for more than eight minutes. Over that span, the Sooners erased a one-point deficit to push the lead out to 69-59, a 18-7 run.
“Possession-by-possession defense, that’s what you have to get them believe in,” Moser said. “… I thought the start of the second half was also key to set the tone. We had a big first half, and they cut it.
“… To come out in the second half and punch first, I thought we did both halves really well to start.”
None of Hill’s 18 points were louder than his emphatic one-handed slam with 6:21 left in the game to put the Sooners up nine.
“I saw the lane clear up and I just knew what I was going to do from there,” Hill said after the game. “It was just one or two dribbles, cock it back and just try to punch it. Just seeing the crowd get hyped and go wild and making (Florida) call a timeout was very useful. It kind of helped us seal the dub."
Even Hill’s teammates said they were impressed with his heroics on the night.
“That dunk was pretty insane,” Groves said. “I think that sparked a huge run for us.
“… Jalen just brings a lot of energy to our team. I think that he's a crucial piece to our team and to our success and he played unbelievable defense. It wasn't just the points he scored, he played unbelievable defense, grabbed some rebounds for us and did all the right things that helped us win.”
From there, Oklahoma built the lead to 10 before a lighting quick 8-0 Florida run cut it to a one-possession game.
But Hill was there again to lift the Sooners, scoring five points over the last minute and a half to push OU across the finish line.
“(There was) just a look in his eye like he just didn’t want to be a piece hiding in the corner,” Moser said. “He embraced the moment like I haven’t been – I should say I have been seeing it. I’ve been seeing it in practice.
“He’s embracing the moment. Getting his athleticism, his confidence into the game. He’s playing aggressive and confident, and that’s the key with him.”
Overall, the Sooners continued their efficient shooting, knocking down 49 percent of their attempts from the field on Wednesday night.
OU also forced the Gators into 16 turnovers, which the Sooners converted into 19 points on the other end of the floor.
Moser’s team is continuing to grow more comfortable playing alongside each other, and they’ll have to continue growing with more big non-conference matchups on the horizon.
Oklahoma’s tough stretch continues, as they’ll host the Butler Bulldogs next one to Tuesday. Tip-off between the Sooners and the Bulldogs is scheduled for 8 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.