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Oklahoma Must Trust the Offensive Game Plan to Topple No. 7 Kansas

After a pair of dismal shooting performances, Porter Moser said the OU offense has to trust each other to get back on track on Tuesday.

Oklahoma’s offense has to wake up, or the Sooners could soon be in free fall.

Losers of two straight, Porter Moser’s Sooners (12-5 overall, 2-3 Big 12) will now play host to the longtime Big 12 boogeyman, the No. 7 Kansas Jayhawks (14-2, 3-1).

The encouraging start to the year came to a screeching halt over the course of OU’s road trip last week, as the Sooners dropped contests against Texas and TCU in ugly offensive performances.

Entering the week with the third-highest field goal percentage in the country, Oklahoma combined to shoot 40.2 percent from the floor and a dismal 17.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

As the shots failed to fall, OU’s offense continually got sped up, leading to 37 turnovers over the brief road trip. Ahead of Tuesday’s matchup with the Jayhawks, Moser said sticking to the offense and continuing to run their sets has been an area the coaching staff has highlighted for improvement.

“That’s a crucial thing this team has to get better at,” Moser said during a Zoom press conference on Monday. “If the shots aren’t falling, we can’t force it. We’ve got to trust, trust each other.

“We’ve had many times where if it hasn’t gone our way, they take turns doing it themselves. That (leads to) an unforced turnover or an untimely shot. So that trust process comes from playing together, experiencing together, understanding there’s just going to be nights where your shots don’t fall.”

MBB - Elijah Harkless, Texas Longhorns

Elijah Harkless

All three of Oklahoma’s leading scorers were guilty of getting sped up against Texas and TCU. Elijah Harkless, Tanner Groves and Umoja Gibson all average double digit scoring per game for the Sooners, but struggled to get anything going on the road trip.

Groves shot 36.3 percent from the field, Gibson knocked down just 31.6 percent of his shots and Harkless combined to shoot 28.0 percent from the floor.

Harkless in particular had a bad sequence to close the game against the Horned Frogs in overtime, dribbling into traffic and getting off a contested shot instead of working the ball around for a good look.

Though he’s done a nice job for OU down the stretch of games at times this year, Moser said improving his shot selection in crunch time has been a constant conversation in the film room.

“He wants us to be good at it,” Moser said. “He wants to. He’s not afraid of the moment.

“… He’s such a competitor. Like, a competitor-deluxe. He wants to do it. He wants to win.”

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For Groves, the solution to the recent offensive struggles is simple on paper: just run the offense.

“I think it's just the trust within the system,” Groves said during his Zoom press conference on Monday. “Coach is an incredible coach. It's obvious what he's done on the national stage, what he's done with his programs in the past. And I just think it's a matter of — I think that guys buy in at times, but I think it's just a matter of every single one of us collectively buying in as a group.

“… We all got to buy in as a team. And then once we do that, you know, we can be incredible. There's been games, there's been practices all year where we've done that. I just think that we need to be more consistent with that.”

MBB - Tanner Groves, Texas Longhorns

Tanner Groves

The Sooners will have to rely on their ball movement Tuesday night to create open looks from deep, as Kansas’ 3-point defense ranks better than both Texas and TCU’s units. Bill Self’s Jayhawks are allowing opponents to knock down just 31.2 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc this year.

Additionally, OU will have to find a way to stay physical and battle inside, something Moser said hurt his team against the Horned Frogs.

(David) McCormack is the second-best offensive rebounder in the country beside the young man at Kentucky (Oscar Tshiebwe),” Moser said. “(McCormack) had 10 offensive rebounds against West Virginia. He was physical. They’re big. We’re thin inside.”

Moser said the Sooners would also have to be wary of Kansas’ want to get out and run in transition, meaning OU will have to shore up their turnover problems.

But even if Oklahoma can limit the damage to the Jayhawks’ half court offense, they’ll have to deal with one of the most efficient scorers in college basketball, Kansas guard Ocahi Agbaji. Agbaji is scoring 20.6 points per game on 52.8 percent shooting from the field, including an eye-popping 47.7 percent shooting mark from beyond the arc.

“Agbaji is having an All-American year,” Moser said. “Elite, elite shooter.”

The Sooners will have their hands full to topple the Jayhawks, but they’ll get their shot on Tuesday night inside the Lloyd Noble Center. The action is slated to start at 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.

“We know what we're capable of,” Groves said. “We just have to go out and do it, and that's the bottom line. I don't really think there's much to it other than that. I think that we definitely are capable of being great. We just have to go out and do it."

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