OU V Iowa State Men's basketball

OU’s Jacob Groves goes up for a shot during the Sooners’ game against Iowa State on Jan. 8 at Lloyd Noble Center.

Oklahoma coach Porter Moser and his team find themselves in a different position heading into today’s game with TCU.

While the Sooners (12-4) had lost three games prior to Tuesday’s matchup with Texas, they remained competitive in those games. The first two losses came by a combined seven points against Utah State and Butler, respectively, and they gave No. 1 Baylor all it could handle last week before the Bears pulled away late.

But the Sooners just looked lost against Texas. Moser expressed disappointment in his team’s effort and execution after the game, as the Longhorns took a double-digit lead early that resulted in a 14-point win.

But during his media availability Friday, Moser emphasized that the recovery process following a loss remains the same, no matter the score.

“Whether you lose a close one or you lose by 14, it’s just [about] what do you have to do to get better to win?,” Moser said. “What are the ‘whys’? Why were you that way? Why are we going to win the next one? That’s what I’m consumed with.

“It’s not easier or harder. Some people can say that when you lose on a buzzer beater, you’re just like what if, one possession here or there. But it’s a loss.”

It was also a tough game for the Sooners’ leading scorer, Tanner Groves, who finished with just two points and one shot attempt. But his brother, Jacob Groves, has full confidence that he’ll bounce back against the Horned Frogs.

“I think the big thing for him is just getting his confidence back,” Jacob Groves said. “The day after the Texas loss, he was watching film with Coach [Moser] and just dissecting the game and figuring out what he can do better.

“He’s had a really good last two days of practice. On our off day, he watched film with coach, got in the gym, got his confidence back and was shooting the ball well. I think that’s just a big part of it for him, getting that confidence back and kind of getting a feel for the game.”

Despite the loss, the Sooners have reason for optimism. Bench players Akol Mawein, Rick Issanza and Alston Mason are expected to return against the Horned Frogs following a two-game absence due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and the Sooners have also gotten key performances recently from their bench players.

Bijan Cortes sparked the Sooners to a win over the Cyclones last week, and Jacob Groves has scored 19 points combined in the last two games. C.J. Noland and Ethan Chargois have given the team solid minutes.

Jacob Groves, who played a season-high 22 minutes against Texas, said he’s becoming more comfortable as the season progresses.

“The more minutes I get, the more comfortable I get in the game,” Jacob Groves said. “I can kind of get into the swing of things and find a little routine and get comfortable. That’s when I really start to produce, find cuts, find little windows and start to get some easy baskets.

“I think a big part of it is just getting my feet on the floor and just being comfortable out there, which is good. I think it’s going to continue to come with time, but it’s been a big confidence boost for me as I’m starting to figure out my role and doing everything I can while coming off the bench to help my team win.”

As they continue conference play, the bench will become more crucial, Moser said. The focus remains on developing the Sooners’ bench rotation.

“You’re gonna see it again here in the next 24 hours [where] a bench player is going to have to step up because of certain situations,” Moser said. “We need to take advantage of your time when you get your name called. You have to stay ready, stay consumed about getting better.

“You’re gonna see it, and we’re gonna need it this next game [against TCU.]

Jesse Crittenden is the sports editor of The Transcript and covers OU athletics. Reach him at jesse@normantranscript.com or at 405-366-3580

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