Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Umoja Gibson gives Sooners hope
If the senior guard can remain the go-to guy his team needs, Oklahoma may have a shot at reclaiming its once-promising season
In my imagination, Umoja Gibson, deep in his heart, knows what got him going Wednesday night and it was Jacob Groves.
Probably not, but it’s my imagination and with 5:50 left in the first half against ninth-ranked Texas Tech, Oklahoma stuck on 14 points, trailing by seven, Groves rose up and knocked down a 3.
He did it with confidence, without hesitation and drained it and if you’ve watched the Sooners since they started losing, you can count the number of shots like that on one hand, maybe two.
Groves made it, the Red Raiders’ edge was nearly halved and, though Groves would miss two more just like it over the next 1:54, it was still a lesson for Gibson.
Somebody’s got to put this team on their back and it might as well be me.
Isn’t my imagination great?
By the time it was over, Gibson had 30 points, OU had knocked off Tech 70-55 and, unfortunately … Porter Moser still may not have watched the same game as the rest of us but, good news, Gibson may offer the Sooners a path forward nonetheless.
“I thought we had our best game of playing 40 minutes in a long time,” Moser said on his postgame Zoom call.
Perhaps it’s nitpicking, but that’s not the reason the Sooners prevailed and this is how we know that’s not the reason the Sooners prevailed:
1) You didn’t play your best anything on a night you turned it over 19 more times and …
2) You can’t talk about playing a 40-minute game when you score 25 points in the first half because 25 points in the first half will never be all right and …
3) You won because you made it hard on Tech and Tech rewarded you by barely hitting more than a third of its shots (10 of 29) after the half and …
4) You really won because Gibson got hot, put the team on his back and after closing the first half strong, though you still trailed 30-25, just kept going, netting 17 second-half points, hitting 5 of 6 from long distance and …
5) Because Gibson was so good after the half, it opened things up for everybody else and everybody else canned 9 of 13 shots after the half.
For fun, captivating stuff like this you couldn’t possible want to miss …
It’s always a team effort, but you got a superstar performance from one guy and that’s what made the rest of it possible.
Moser’s excitable, his team competed and won, finally, and that’s the kind of thing a coach says after winning a game his team had to have.
Back to Gibson.
So Groves hit that 3 and, though Gibson had already made one from distance 10:36 before the half, he’d attempted just one more by the time Groves had put all three of his in the air, all three with confidence, though just the one fell.
It must have rubbed off.
Gibson hit his second 3 3:21 before the half, his third 2:12 before the half and five more in six tries after the half.
It’s a path forward if it sticks.
OU appeared to play one of those games against Iowa State, before the losing began, when, closing so strong behind freshman point guard Bijan Cortes, you had to believe they’d be a new and better team afterward. Instead, they played their worst basketball of the season for eight games.
Well, here we are again, and the thing about Gibson, though he’s never averaged more than 14.5 points in a season — 2019-20, still at North Texas — and never more than the 12.8 he’s averaging right now for OU, no other Sooner, last season and this one, has ever looked like 25-points-about-to-happen the way Gibson has looked liked that guy.
Austin Reaves had more games like that, but never really looked like he was about to. De’Vion Harmon and Brady Manek scored more than Gibson a year ago, but never really had that take-the-game-over vibe.
Tyler Groves and Elijah Harkless have spent most of the season leading the Sooners in the scorebook, but neither has 20 points a night in them even if Moser tells one of them he absolutely needs it.
Moser said something else on his Zoom call.
Speaking of Gibson, listing all he did, he said, “He had to play some point guard.”
Let’s hope the coach heard himself, because that’s one way to put the ball in the hands of your most exciting player, and maybe it should keep happening even after Cortes comes out of concussion protocol.
The Sooners are 14-10, 4-7 in the Big 12. Three more league victories might be enough to go dancing, though to do anything with the invitation they might want to be a better team than that.
If they’ve finally found a go-to guy they can count on, maybe they will.