Through 10 games last season, Oklahoma posted an 8-2 record.
This season, the Sooners sit at 7-3 on the heels of a tough 88-78 loss to Arkansas last weekend. Though they’re slightly behind last year’s pace at this point in the season, there’s one key difference.
Last year’s Sooners didn’t have Grant Sherfield.
Sherfield, the preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, has exceeded expectations and has become the key player on this year’s team. The point guard leads the team in scoring (17.7 points per game) and assists (4.2) while shooting 45 percent from the field, 55 percent from 3 and 89 percent from the free throw line. He ranks second in the Big 12 in scoring and fourth in assists.
The Sooners simply didn’t have a player like Sherfield last season to serve as the team’s focal point offensively. He leads the team in shot attempts (128), 3-pointers(28) and free throws (33).
Despite the loss to the Razorbacks, Sherfield finished with a team-high 23 points to go with three assists and three steals. OU coach Porter Moser lauded Sherfield for his performance but challenged the rest of the team to help him.
This year’s Sooners have a higher ceiling than last year with Sherfield in the fold. But he won’t be able to do it by himself.
With the Sooners roughly a fourth of the way through their season, and only two weeks away from the start of conference play, here’s three things they can do to find more success:
1. Keep developing Milos Uzan
The freshman guard has been another bright spot this season.
Uzan immediately earned a spot in the rotation to begin the season, and he was inserted into the starting lineup in place of C.J. Noland following the Sooners’ loss to Villanova. In two starts, Uzan has scored 26 points — the most of any player not named Sherfield — and a team-high 10 assists.
15 of those points came against Arkansas, and Uzan proved to be the most consistent source of offense outside of Sherfield.
“I thought he was really competing and handling and pushing back against that pressure,” Moser said after the game. “We [had some guys that] didn’t push back as hard. Him and Grant I thought did. We’ve got to get more in there.”
Uzan is also shooting well this season, making 22-of-35 attempts (63 percent) of his field goal attempts. He’s also made 4-of-8 attempts from the 3-point line.
Sherfield and Uzan will likely be the starting backcourt the rest of the way. If Uzan can keep producing, that bodes well for the Sooners’ chances in conference play.
2. Find more minutes for Sam Godwin
The Southmoore native has been great off the bench this season.
In just 13.4 minutes per game, Godwin is posting per-game numbers of 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds. He’s also shooting a team-high 75 percent from the floor and 71 percent from the free throw line.
He also leads the team in offensive rebounds with 14.
“Coming in, I knew what my role was,” Godwin said after the Sooners’ win over Kansas City. “Come in and provide hustle plays and offensive rebounds, anything I could do to get the team extra possessions. So that’s my focus going into the game every night and just giving my best effort.”
Tanner Groves is having another solid year — 10.6 points, 6.6 rebounds per game — and Godwin has found a way to be productive in limited minutes. But if he keeps this up, Moser may have to find ways to keep Godwin on the floor, even if that includes playing Groves and Godwin together.
3. Take care of the ball
The Sooners have improved slightly compared to last season, but turnovers continue to be an issue.
They’re turning the ball over nearly 13 times a game, which ranks 139th nationally. Opponents are turning the ball over just 10 times a game against the Sooners.
In their three losses, the Sooners have committed 50 turnovers. They lost the turnover battle 15-9 against Arkansas, and the Razorbacks scored 17 points off those turnovers.
Turnovers hurt the Sooners at times last season, and they finished the year averaging 14.7 per game. If the Sooners hope to fare better against big 12 opponents, they’ll need to do an even better job taking care of the ball.
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