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.
You're correct: Mo Gibson was on fire once he got started last night. Several of his three-pointers were so thoroughly contested that it seemed miraculous he even got them off. But he did, and it proved to be the motivation necessary to carry the Sooners over the number nine team in the country, although Tech certainly didn't look like a Top Ten squad on the night. Subtract Gibson's career game and you'd have next to nothing as the much-needed Tyler Groves pulled another evening of the type which has become far too regular lately: a two-point disappearing act that had me wondering when he even got those two. I wasn't even sure that he got off a shot the entire game! Other than his chaotic energy whether on the floor or the bench, Tyler just can't be counted on to show up when the game starts. And while on the subject of chaotic energy, Porter Moser has gone from beginning the season as a somewhat energetic presence on the bench to becoming a full-on, raving madman stalking the refs up and down and out onto the playing floor. To say he looks like a man possessed is—to put it mildly—like calling the Eiffel Tower a tall monument. His eyes aglow and his face contorted with manic energy, combined with his constant pacing, must seem to outsiders to be, at the very least, a distraction for his team. Last night he had many of us worried about the perceived possibility of him blowing a gasket and not making it through the remainder of the season! So keep feeling it Umoja. Continue to fill the air with those smooth threes while using your speed and slashing drives to carry the Sooner's on your shoulders. I'm certainly not ready to predict any post-season for this year's Oklahoma squad other than the NIT, but here's hoping that more improved play—from everyone on the roster, especially Harkless and Tyler Groves—will help Coach Moser cross that finish line marking the end of the 2021-22 season...health intact!