Going nowhere fast
At season's first Bedlam, their eighth loss in nine games, Sooners offer no signs a rebound's on the way
At least twice this season, one of coach Porter Moser’s Oklahoma men have authored something we’ve never seen; or, at least, something we might go years without seeing.
The first was fantastic, because it belonged to true freshman Bijan Cortes, an in-state product from Kingfisher, who took over late against Iowa State.
Though he finished with only four points and five assists over 17 minutes, he was nonetheless entirely the reason the Sooners came back to beat the Cyclones.
Saturday, in their lackluster, dying-on-the-vine 64-55 Bedlam loss inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, the player was Elijah Harkless and, though what he did was not fantastic, it still belongs in a time capsule.
At the 19:29 mark of the second half, Harkless stole the ball and 4 seconds later hit a layup at the other end. At the 18:41 mark, he turned the ball over. At the 18:36 mark, he stole it back. At the 18:18 mark, he turned the ball over. At the 18:12 mark, he stole it back.
In 87 seconds, Harkless stole the ball three times, scored once, and turned it over three times. In a lifetime of watching sports, I’d not seen that.
From the 18:12 mark to the 17:35 mark, when he came off the court, he did nothing to add to his boxscore, good or bad. When brought back in, at 16:49, he needed 18 seconds to commit his fourth turnover of the half.
What to make of it?
Maybe Harkless is a turnover machine. He committed eight in the game, pushing his season total to 55, one less than Jordan Goldwire. Or maybe it’s a measure of his competitiveness, because who’s ever nabbed three steals in 87 seconds, and he did that, too.
Whatever, it’s not something any player on any team that has a real sense of what it’s trying to accomplish does. Well, that is, unless what that team’s trying to do is ill conceived from the beginning.
No team, for crying out loud, should turn the ball over three times so quickly, let alone a single player, but that’s sort of what OU does, having entered Saturday’s early tip turning it over 14.7 times per game, less than just 43 of 358 Division I programs.
As a percentage of their possessions, the Sooners are yet worse, giving the ball away 19.5 percent of the time, less than only 15 of 358, which is awful, of course, but may not be what ails them most.
Five days prior, Monday, OU fell 72-63 to TCU, even inside Lloyd Noble Center, even turning the ball over a season-low six times … and yet somehow got off fewer field goal attempts (54) than they did Saturday (61).
None of it's good.
None of it makes sense.
Much was made of topping three top-15 teams — Arkansas, Florida, Iowa State — wins that helped OU get to 12-3. Of course, that was eight games and seven losses ago, a string in which Moser’s Sooners have averaged 53.7 points, which skips absurd and goes straight to unwatchable.
There’s no fire.
There’s no refusing to lose.
There’s no coming out of a timeout and the whole team slapping its hands on the floor to get ready to play some defense, getting the fans into the game, too.
Saturday, Oklahoma State’s Kalib Boone took over after the half, scoring all 12 of his points post intermission, getting a bunch of dunks rolling to the basket having shed the Sooner defense at the free-throw line.
It was a defensive failure on OU’s part, of course, but a chink in the Sooners’ defensive armor still had to be found, exploited and executed upon.
Can Moser find nothing for his team to exploit? Can he not get more free points than the four OU scored in transition? Is there no way to score more than 12 off OSU’s 16 giveaways, while the Pokes netted 17 off OU’s 17?
“I thought we came out and really had some pop offensively,” Moser said, and OU did, from two sources and two sources only, Tanner Groves and Harkless, who combined to score 24 of OU’s 28 first-half points.
After the half?
“We kind of went down that rabbit hole of trying to do high-degree difficulties,” Moser said.
If only a coach could get in the way of such things.
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It’s bad basketball and there’s no end in sight.
Maybe good things can still happen.
Just four seasons ago, a Sooner team that lost 9 of 11 somehow found its way back well enough to reach the NCAA Tournament.
It was the Trae Young season and OU had risen to No. 4 before losing its way. It closed winning 2 of 3 to finish 8-10 in the conference and sneak into the dance.
This team, 3-7 in the conference, is going to have to beat somebody and many more somebodies after that.
Texas Tech’s next, then Kansas away, then Texas, then Iowa State away.
Where’s there a win?
Playing like this, nowhere.