Oklahoma basketball: Three takeaways from OU’s loss to No.1 Auburn

Auburn Tigers center Dylan Cardwell (44) reacts after making an alley-op pass at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022. Auburn Tigers defeated Oklahoma Sooners 86-68.
Auburn Tigers center Dylan Cardwell (44) reacts after making an alley-op pass at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022. Auburn Tigers defeated Oklahoma Sooners 86-68. /

One giant learning — with no intended inference to a size advantage, which there clearly was one — from the Oklahoma basketball game against top-ranked Auburn on Saturday was that some teams are just better and more talented than the Sooners.

Oklahoma (13-8, 3-5) fell behind early and Auburn (20-1, 8-0) took advantage of it. The No. 1 ranked Tigers, playing in their first game since being elevated to the onerous top spot in college basketball, went on to thrash the Sooners 86-68 Saturday night in Auburn Arena.

The Sooners became another victim in Auburn’s 17-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the country.

Senior guard Jordan Goldwire led all Sooners with 19 points along with four assists and three rebounds. Umoja Gibson tallied 14 points, along with Tanner Groves reaching double figures as well, with 13 points. The Sooners were scrapping away at the deficient, cutting the lead to 50-47 by an Umoja Gibson layup midway through the second half, but Auburn kept answering the bell.

Here are three more telling takeaways from the OU’s Big 12/SEC Challenge matchup with Auburn:

Auburn’s Jabari Smith had his way

On most NBA Draft boards, Auburn’s Jabari Smith is a projected No. 1 pick, and you can see exactly why. The Sooners were suffocating Jabari Smith every time he touched the ball, forcing him to take difficult shots, but Smith kept hitting them. Smith led the Tigers with 21 points, along with 12 rebounds and going 9-10 from the foul line. The 6-foot, 10-inch freshman sensation lived up to the big stage and gave the Sooners problems all afternoon.

The Sooners were outrebounded 41-29 by Auburn, mostly because of Auburn forwards Smith and Walker Kessler, who combined for 22 rebounds. Teams with size have given Oklahoma problems this season, especially in the rebounding category. The Sooners were getting stops on Auburn, but the Tigers kept getting second-chance opportunities, which was an ongoing trend in the second half on Saturday.

Teams with size and length give Sooners problems

Throughout the season, we’ve seen lengthy teams give OU fits: Texas, Baylor, and now Auburn. Auburn came into Saturday leading the nation in blocked shots ( 8.2 per game), and they had six of them against the Sooners. However, Oklahoma was coming in as a top-10 field-goal percentage team, shooting 49.39 percent, but Auburn held the Sooners to 38.9 percent for the game. It was Oklahoma’s second lowest shooting percentage of the season.

The Sooners were at full-strength, after getting Ethan Chargois back, but it didn’t make up for the size and athleticism Auburn brings to the table. Against Baylor, second-chance opportunities killed the Sooners, and it was the same way against Auburn. Oklahoma was able to get crucial stops, but Auburn’s length gave them extra possessions.

Jordan Goldwire finding his confidence 

The Duke transfer Jordan Goldwire finally hit a stride for the Sooners. On Saturday afternoon, Goldwire shot the ball with confidence, got his teammates open, and attacked the rim with aggression. It was a patient, but long wait to see Goldwire, known at Duke as a defensive specialist, finally make an impact on the game and direct the Sooners offense.

"“I thought Jordan Goldwire did as much as he could do to help us win,” OU head coach Porter Moser said in his postgame comments. ”He took stuff when he had it, he changed paces and he was simply making good plays. He had one turnover in a heated atmosphere where (Auburn) can get you sped up.”"

The Sooners can still crawl back in the Big 12 standings, but they need some help from their veterans. Elijah Harkless disappeared on this two-game road trip for the Sooners after being replaced by Jacob Groves in the starting lineup.

Oklahoma needs pre-Big 12 season Harkless back, along with Tanner Groves, who is still trying to find his touch. It’s been a difficult and grueling schedule for the Sooners, but there’s still time to make some noise and move up in the standings while strengthening their resume for an NCAA Tournament bid.