Oklahoma basketball: Sooners finally finish what they started — with exclamation!

Oklahoma forward Sam Godwin (10) dunks the ball in the first half during a basketball game between The Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and The Alabama Crimson Tide at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023.Ou Vs Alabama
Oklahoma forward Sam Godwin (10) dunks the ball in the first half during a basketball game between The Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and The Alabama Crimson Tide at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023.Ou Vs Alabama /

What switch did the Oklahoma basketball men flip on Saturday?

Whatever it was — and head coach Porter Moser will tell you they had it in them all along — they need to memorize the script and keep flipping the same switch the remainder of the season.

In Saturday’s 93-69 domination of No. 2-ranked Alabama, the Sooner men played by far their most complete game of the season and arguably their best game in the 56 they’ve played in two seasons under Moser.

The Sooner head coach watched with elation from the bench at Lloyd Noble Center as fans from a crowd of nearly 11,000 stormed the floor in celebration of Oklahoma’s statement win over the SEC’s top team in the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge.

Coming off three consecutive losses — the last of which, a 27-point meltdown at TCU earlier in the week, marking the worst loss by a Sooner basketball team in several seasons — you couldn’t have asked for a better all-around performance delivered by Oklahoma on Saturday.

"“Just really happy for the guys to bounce back from that to do this,” Moser said in his postgame interview session. “That’s character. That’s resiliency. That’s togetherness.”"

The Sooners were absolutely en fuego on offense, shooting 68 percent in a 50-point first half and 58 percent for the game. And Moser would proudly tell you that it was their work effort on the defensive end against one of the best offensive teams in the nation that created much of their continuity and confidence the Sooners exhibited on offense. Defense creating offense.

523. 93. 464. Final. 69

With the exception of two games in its eight Big 12 outings thus far in what is undeniably the best conference in college basketball, Oklahoma has come about as close as you can get without winning, losing four times by a combined 10 points (by one point, three points, four points and two points) and all to teams ranked in the top-15 in the Associated Press Top 25.

Grant Sherfield and Jalen Hill combined for 56 of the Sooners’ 93 points against Alabama. Sherfield scored a season-high 30 points, one shy of his career high, and Hill had the game of his life with a career-high 26 points on 9 of 11 shooting, eight rebounds and two assists.

As spectacular as his offensive output was, perhaps Hill’s greatest contribution was his defensive performance against the Crimson Tide’s best player, Brandon Miller, a projected NBA Lottery pick. The sensational Alabama freshman came into the game scoring nearly 20 points a game.  With Hill on him, Miller made just four field goals on 14 shot attempts and ended the game with 11 points. It was the second fewest points he has scored in a game all season.

“That kid (Hill) needs to be on the watch list for National Defensive Player of the Year,” Moser said. “He is resilient. He’s playing a lot of minutes (35 out of 40 in this game). And then for him to have that defensive effort and have 26 points as well. I mean, what a performance by Jalen.”

Tanner Groves had a solid all-around game on Saturday, as well. The 6-foot, 10-inch super senior added 14 points and a dozen rebounds.

After the 27-point loss to TCU earlier in the week, Oklahoma dropped out of ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s 68-team projection to make this season’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. The Sooners’ decisive win over Alabama will go a long way to helping their cause to make the NCAA Tournament field if they are able to string together a few more wins over the second half of conference season.

That obviously will be easier said than done. According to the ESPN Basketball Power Index, Oklahoma has the most difficult schedule in the country over its 10 remaining regular-season games.

The win over Alabama is Oklahoma’s first over a team ranked as high as No. 2 in the country since knocking off No. 1 Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament championship game in 2002. The 24-point margin of victory is the largest by an unranked team over a top-five team in the history of the Associated Press poll (since 1936).

The Sooners are now 14-2 all-time against teams from the SEC and is 7-3 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge with two of those wins against Alabama and both in Norman. The is the last year of the Big 12 basketball challenge series with the SEC. The SEC, which soon will have OU and Texas a members, is scheduled to start up a new annual interconference series with the Atlantic Coast Conference next year.

Talking about Oklahoma’s statement win over Alabama in the postgame press conference, Tanner Groves said, “I think it could definitely be a turning point in our season.

"“That win gave us a lot of confidence and, I mean, I think it’s just going to propel us forward in the season,” he said We’re going to be really good at building off this one.”"

The next one for this group of jubilant Sooners is a Bedlam home rematch with Oklahoma State on Wednesday. The Cowboys won the first game 72-56 in Stillwater.