OU basketball welcomes No. 1 Houston to Norman

On3 imageby:Bob Przybylo02/26/24

BPrzybylo

Take a breath, OU fans. Now nearly 48 hours removed from the historic game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer by Javian McCollum, it’s back to work for the Sooners.

When we stressed how important it was to win Saturday at Oklahoma State, this is why. Had McCollum’s shot not gone in, OU would be on a three-game losing streak with two games vs. top-10 opponents coming up.

Instead, the Sooners are feeling pretty good at 19-8 overall and 7-7 in Big 12 play. And those top-10 games? More opportunities once again.

It will begin at No. 8 Iowa State on Wednesday. OU beat the Cyclones what feels like forever ago to begin Big 12 play in the first week of January. ISU has proven to be among the nation’s best, and it is OU’s best win of the season.

From there? No. 1 comes to town. Houston, off the strength of a ridiculous 2-0 week last week, has jumped to the top spot in the country.

Welcome back, Kelvin Sampson, in what should be an electric atmosphere Saturday night.

For OU, though, it was welcome back to Rivaldo Soares. And his warrior-like mentality was massive in OU getting the Bedlam victory.

In his first game back after a sprained left ankle, Soares didn’t just provide an emotional lift. He did a whole heck of a lot more than that with a 20-point effort. Simply put, Soares would not be denied.

“I don’t have that many games guaranteed left, you know, and I’m just trying to play every game – I think we’re all doing it on this team – playing every game like it’s our last,” Soares said. “We think we’re the best team in the country. That’s the type of confidence we have to have against every team that we play and it just shows.”

Maybe nobody had a better view of McCollum etching himself in Bedlam lore than Soares. Happy for his teammate, the team and where it’s still going.

“You see me on film, I’m looking at the ball go in and he hits it, I’m in front of Javian like ‘Oh my God.’ Because I hit a game winner last year against our rival when I was at Oregon against Oregon State,” Soares said. “And I just know that feeling and I was just so happy. It’s surreal. Like even when your teammate makes it, you feel like you made the shot.”

Bedlam Unsung Hero – Jalon Moore

Moore kept OU afloat in a rough first half. It didn’t feel like anybody had any energy. And nobody could execute. But Moore just kept plugging away. He was brilliant in keeping it an eight-point deficit at halftime. Then as his fouls crept up, teammates came along for the ride to lead to the dramatic finish.

“Man, his energy level,” head coach Porter Moser said. “Jalon Moore had 11 points and 14 rebounds, five on the offensive glass. We had 16 offensive rebounds. That was huge for us. Jalon had five, Sam had four. You have to have stuff like that against Oklahoma State in this atmosphere. The toughness with this rivalry. Have to have that with those extra possessions.”

Team of the Week

OK, Houston is for real. Were the Cougars a product of a weak conference slate year after year? Or prove to be legitimate in the Big 12? It is the latter. Before Kelvin Sampson returns to Norman this weekend, Houston is letting everybody know it is primed for a Final Four/national championship run. It began with a physical home victory vs. Iowa State to claim first place in the conference. And then ended the week with a thrilling overtime win at Baylor. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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