Oklahoma was outrebounded 39 to 30 against Baylor last Saturday, which is why rebounding is one of coach Porter Moser’s main focuses moving forward.
The Sooners rank last in the Big 12, averaging 31.7 rebounds per game, including a dead-last mark with 6.3 offensive rebounds per game in the conference. As OU (11-8, 2-5 Big 12) reels from its second loss in a row, Moser is looking to improve on rebounding against No. 11 TCU (15-4, 4-3 Big 12) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Fort Worth.
The Horned Frogs rank second in the league averaging 12.1 offensive rebounds per game. They also tout one of the best rebounding frontcourts, with center Eddie Lampkin Jr. leading the way, totaling 7.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
“The rebounding thing, I thought, was one of the reasons why we beat West Virginia,” Moser said. “That was a one-possession game, and if we would have rebounded like we did against West Virginia, which is the same kind of rebounding team as Baylor, we would win that game.”
Moser is also looking to have his guards improve their rebounding. Senior Grant Sherfield and freshman Milos Uzan had zero and two rebounds, respectively, against the Bears.
The bench backcourt wasn’t any better. Sophomore guards Bijan Cortes, C.J. Noland and freshman guard Otega Oweh had zero rebounds each, meaning only two of OU’s 30 total rebounds came from the Sooners’ guards.
OU’s coach thinks their improvement starts with boxing out and being aggressive to get rebounds in traffic.
“We have to block out and we have to go get it,” Moser said. “... I think we only had one missed one or two missed block outs last game. They're blocking out, but they have to release and go get the rebounds. … It's not the blackout, it's the release to go and get it. We’re gonna be in the same boat against TCU.”
Sherfield looking to end second half struggles
The Baylor game marked the second contest in a row the Nevada transfer was scoreless in the second half, marking a continuation of his struggles against Big 12 defenses.
In the past two games, Sherfield has gone a combined 0-for-11 during the second half. In the first half, comparatively, he scored 23 combined points on 8-for-12 shooting in the losses against Oklahoma State and Baylor.
Despite his struggles, Sherfield’s mindset remains the same. He’s the Sooners’ leading scorer this season, averaging 17 points per game on 43.5% shooting from the field and 44.2% from 3-point range.
“The Big 12 is definitely the best conference in basketball without a doubt,” Sherfield said. “I’m just trying to come into it like any other game. In the conference, we know every game is gonna be a battle. Anybody can beat anybody. It's just college basketball at the end of the day. So, I try to come in with the same mindset.”
Moser is continuing to work with his star guard, as teams keep him atop of their defensive scouting report. The second-year coach noted he wants Sherfield to find his teammates and do other things to win a game if he can’t score against imposing double-teams.
“We've been talking about a lot of things,” Moser said. “He wants to win and he puts a lot of pressure on himself. Teams are double-teaming, and I thought at the beginning of the game he got Tanner three, wide-open 3-pointers, and he got I think Jacob two wide-open 3-pointers. He just gotta maintain that (playmaking) and know there's a million ways you can help your team win.
“I want to help him. He needs to stay confident, figure things out, navigate, and he's got to navigate it. We'll navigate through it together.”
Moser navigating freshmen development
Not everything has been perfect for Moser’s freshmen, but navigating the challenges has been tricky in conference play.
Uzan is averaging 26.5 minutes per game, and has started the last 11 contests after replacing Noland in the lineup. He’s also averaging 6.4 points, 3.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game.
He’s seen the most action among OU’s freshmen. Oweh recently played 11 minutes off the bench against the Bears, while garnering six points and a career-high five steals.
“They’re gonna make some mistakes,” Moser said. “You have to live with some mistakes. It's why it's so hard to play freshman right now. We went with Otega, and he really came out and made a bunch of good plays right in a row.
“It’s how many you live with. It's hard in these one possession games. With Los, I still gotta live with some things like he knows it right away. With the jump passes and he sailed one out of bounds. We've seen that same turnover four or five times the last five games.”
Freshmen Benny Schröder and Luke Northweather are redshirting so far, but Moser has seen encouraging minutes from Schröder in practice lately.
“Benny has been starting to do some really good things in practice,” Moser said. “But at this level with these games are possession by possession you gotta live with some mistakes with some freshmen.”
This story was edited by Colton Sulley. Mary Ann Livingood copy edited this story.