Oklahoma basketball: Harkless’ injury ended his and maybe Sooners’ season

Oklahoma guard Elijah Harkless (55) secures a rebound from Kansas during the second half of Saturday's game inside Allen Fieldhouse.
Oklahoma guard Elijah Harkless (55) secures a rebound from Kansas during the second half of Saturday's game inside Allen Fieldhouse. /

The struggling Oklahoma basketball Sooners were dealt a serious blow with the news that Elijah Harkless is done for the season with an undisclosed injury.

Harkless made the trip to Iowa State on Saturday and was his normal busy self, only not on the court, where he was needed the most. He helped distribute ball during warmups and talked to teammates with helpful advice and words of encouragement during timeouts.

The 6-foot, 3-inch senior guard is the Sooners best defender and his absence was sorely missed in Oklahoma 21-point 75-54 loss on Saturday to a blistering-hot Cyclone shooting performance. In addition to his defensive presence, Harkless also is a solid contributor on the offensive end.

In what ended up being his final game this season, Harkless played 41 minutes in the Sooners’ game with Texas last Wednesday, scoring a team-high 19 points. For the season, he was averaging 10.0 points and 4.1 rebounds every time out.

Without Harkless on the floor against Iowa State, Oklahoma appeared out of sync defensively. The Sooners were struggling with defensive switches that came more naturally with Harkless, Jalen Hill and Jordan Goldwire all on the floor.

"“We really struggled guarding the dribble,” said Porter Moser in his postgame comments on Saturday. “We switch a lot and that’s the number one area where we missed Elijah. We felt it right away.“Late (in the possession) when we couldn’t guard a dribble, then it became kicking it out for threes. And they made their shots,”"

It was clear from Saturday’s game that the Sooners are going to have to make some adjustments. The season-ending news about Harkless came so late in the week that Moser and his staff had to react on the fly in getting ready for Iowa State.

“We’ve got to figure some things out. Figure some guys out,” Moser said. One of the OU reserves is going to have to step up. On Saturday, it was Jacob Groves who took Harkless’ spot in the starting lineup.

While the younger of the Groves brothers has good but inconsistent shooting skills, he is not nearly the defender Harkless is, and he is not able to play the kind of minutes that Harkless does, which means it’s definitely going to take more than one Sooner to make up for his loss.

“We’ve got to get better minutes from our depth than we got today,” Moser said. The OU reserves contributed all of two points in the Iowa State game, and those points came on a bucket by Bijon Cortes on the final OU possession of the game.

"“Everyone wants to get opportunities to play,” the OU head coach said. “You can sit there and want minutes. Then when you get minutes, you’ve got to make them count. You can’t count minutes; you’ve got to make them count.”"

Oklahoma has a couple of days to get things better figured out before the next game, which is at No. 9 Texas Tech on Tuesday. The brutal truth is, however, OU misses Harkless on both ends of the floor. Not only is he a ball hawk on defense, but he averages 10 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

At a point in the season when the Sooners need Harkless on the floor the most, he is not available. His season is over. Moser, et al. are going to need to figure things out fast or Oklahoma’s season may be over as well.