Oklahoma coach Porter Moser and his team are about to take on the toughest competition they’ve seen this season.
The Sooners’ looming three-game stretch consists of No. 14 Florida, Butler and No. 10 Arkansas, and spans 11 days beginning with Gators on Wednesday. All three opponents are ranked in the Top 100 in Ken Pomeroy’s 2022 College Basketball Rankings and two of the three are ranked in the Top 25.
Moser sees playing tough opponents during non conference not as a negative, but as a positive. It can be a good indicator of where his team stands as it prepares for the demanding 18-game Big 12 schedule that begins with Kansas State on Jan. 1 in Norman.
“You’ve got to be thinking about getting better,” Moser said about playing tough non conference competition. “And that’s the thing, especially being at Oklahoma… we’re going to have many opportunities for resume builders with our schedule.”
OU’s last stretch of games included three games at the Myrtle Beach Invitational, a home game vs. Houston Baptist and a road game against UCF. After playing five games in 10 days, the Sooners are looking forward to the five days off between the Florida and Butler games.
“It’s always beneficial,” Moser said. “Guys are sore… so just to get some recovery with your bodies, minds, catch back up academically and do all those things you need to do as you head into December.”
OU’s 65-62 win over UCF on Nov. 27 was not only a chance for the team to figure out a way to win a close game on the road, but also to gain more confidence in each other and more experience in close game situations.
Redshirt senior Jordan Goldwire, who finished with 11 points and seven assists against the Knights, realizes the opportunity in front of his group and senses the Sooners are starting to come together at the right time.
“This stretch is big for us,” Goldwire said. “We’ve got a couple of chances to get some good quality wins under our belt and also just to compete against some really high level teams… set the tone for our season or which way we want to go with it.
“It’s still early in the season, guys are still developing chemistry, trying to figure out how to win games down the stretch. We played a good UCF team and we figured out a way to win.”
One of OU’s strengths this season has been the ability to dominate the paint. The Sooners will have their hands full with Florida’s Colin Castleton.
The 6-foot-11 senior forward is averaging nearly 15 points, 10 rebounds and nearly three blocks per game to start the season. The former 4-star recruit from Daytona Beach, Florida transferred from Michigan after the 2019-20 season.
“He is a problem,” Moser said. “He’s 6-foot-11, he’s mobile and he’s strong… a lot of problems, a lot of things we’ve got to be aware of.”
When the Sooners (6-1) tip-off against the No. 14 Gators (6-0) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 1, in Norman, they will honor former OU and Florida coach Lon Kruger in a special ceremony during the game.
Kruger coached at Oklahoma for 10 seasons and finished his career with a 195-128 record with the team. His tenure in Norman included a trip to the Final Four during the 2015-16 season.
“You just get to know him and he’s just such a great person,” Moser said of Kruger. “First and foremost, an outstanding hall of fame coach… you can’t imagine a coach's transition with the former head coach being as gracious as Lon Kruger has been to me.”