Oklahoma’s defense suffocates UTSA in a 96-44 blowout

The Oklahoma Sooners held UTSA scoreless for a span of almost eight minutes in the first half Friday night and then capitalized on the momentum, rolling to an easy 96-44 victory over the Roadrunners.

In the game played at the Noble Center in Norman, Okla., UTSA kept its head above water in the first few minutes, leading 4-2, before the home team set in motion a crushing defensive performance with a 17-0 run.

As the teams took a break for intermission, OU entered the UTSA record book by holding the Roadrunners to their fewest points in a half (10).

With a 33-10 lead, the Sooners came out and kept pouring it on in the second half, increasing the advantage to 30 with 16:55 left, to 40 with eight minutes remaining and, ultimately, to 53 with 33 seconds to go.

In the end, it was one of the most lopsided losses in UTSA’s 41-year school history.

“They just got after us from the start,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told Jay Howard on the team’s radio broadcast. “We just couldn’t get a good shot early on. We were fighting. We fought defensively for awhile. But I think just the fact that we could not get good looks at the basket eventually took some of our energy away from the defensive end, and it just steamrolled on us.”

Late in the half, OU center Tanner Groves asserted himself with shot-making both inside the paint and from 3-point range. Groves, during the streak, fired in one shot from beyond the arc, sank a mid-range jumper and flipped in a jump hook.

He finished with 21 points to lead four players in double figures. Umoja Gibson, Elijah Harkless and Marvin Johnson scored 10 each for the Sooners, who shot 61.5 percent from the field in the second half and ended with 58.2 percent for the game.

On the flip side, UTSA shot 22.7 percent, just off the school record 22.6 percent set on March 2, 2013, in a 53-37 home loss to Seattle.

With first-year coach Porter Moser in charge, Oklahoma employed a switching defense, with obvious positive results.

“They got a bunch of interchangeable sized guys. That’s kind of what we try to do defensively. Certainly, they were able to blow up a lot of our action with their switching,” Henson said.

A bright spot for UTSA was forward Dhieu Deing, a newcomer to the team who played his high school career at High Point, N.C. Held scoreless early, Deing got hot late and hit five three-pointers. He finished with 15 points. Guard Jordan Ivy-Curry scored 10 points and center Jacob Germany six.


Oklahoma 2-0
UTSA 1-1

Coming up

UTSA hosts a three-day, multi-team event starting Monday at the Convocation Center. The Roadrunners play Texas A&M-Commerce on Monday night at 7:30. They’ll take on Denver on Tuesday night at 7:30 and IUPUI on Wednesday afternoon at 4:30.

UTSA-OU notebook

With the victory, Oklahoma of the Big 12 Conference improved to 7-0 against UTSA all time, including 5-0 against the Henson-coached Roadrunners. OU handed Henson his worst loss last year, 105-66.

Coming into the game, UTSA men’s basketball was winless in 12 years against teams from the five biggest revenue-producing athletic conferences. The loss dropped UTSA to 0-24 against Power Five opponents in that span. The program’s last victory over a P5 team came in November of 2009 at Iowa of the Big Ten.

Moser came to OU from Loyola-Chicago to replace Lon Kruger, who retired after last season. Moser is best known by fans in South Texas for leading his team to the 2018 NCAA Final Four at the Alamodome.

Under Moser, OU has stocked its roster with transfers, including brothers Tanner Groves and Jacob Groves from Eastern Washington, Ethan Chargois (SMU) and Jordan Goldwire (Duke). Also, super senior Marvin Johnson (Eastern Illinois).

Goldwire played 116 games at Duke over the last four years.

Loyola coach says ’98 NCAA title game loss haunted Majerus

Coach Porter Moser has led Loyola-Chicago to its first Final Four in 55 years.

In writing sports since the days of the 53-team NCAA Tournament, I’ve covered basketball for a good chunk of my career, but I never got a chance to meet the late Rick Majerus.

And really, all I can say about that is, it’s a damned shame.

From all accounts, Majerus was smart, funny and dedicated to his craft.

That’s why I got a kick out of listening to Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser Thursday at the NCAA Final Four media session.

Moser addressed a question about what a coincidence it is for his Loyola team to arrive in San Antonio 20 years after his mentor, Majerus, brought his Utah Utes to the city in 1998.

For Majerus, it was his one and only trip to the Final Four.

“I remember seeing coach Majerus in a white T-shirt that said, ‘Utah Utes,’ and his team walking out (to the court),” said Moser, who worked then at Texas A&M. “I remember going, ‘Holy Cow, look at how big that team (is).’ I remember seeing them at a restaurant on the River Walk.

“I remember that vividly.”

In 2007, the coaches’ careers intersected again. Majerus, then the head coach at Saint Louis, threw Moser a life line, of sorts.

Fired after four years as head coach at Illinois State, Moser joined Majerus as an assistant.

The two spent four years together, until another opportunity presented itself to Moser.

In 2011, Loyola handed him the head coaching job. Now, Moser has led the Ramblers to their first Final Four in 55 years.

Moser reminisced about his days at Saint Louis with Majerus, who died of heart failure in December 2012.

He was 64.

“Of all the things about coach, he remembers things,” Moser said. “There’s nothing that stuck in his craw more than losing that (1998) championship game to Kentucky. He could tell you every play. He could tell you everything.”

In the semifinals, the Andre Miller- and Michael Doleac-led Utes knocked off the North Carolina Tar Heels, 65-59. But in the finals, the Tubby Smith-coached Wildcats prevailed, 78-69.

“It physically bothered him to lose that game,” Moser said, “and he talked about it.”

Because the Loyola coach has looked up to Majerus so much, he said bringing his team to San Antonio this year is special.

He said people ask him often about what Majerus would say about the Ramblers, who have stormed through regional play as a No. 11 seed, all the way to San Antonio.

Loyola will play the Michigan Wolverines in the first of two NCAA semifinals Saturday.

“I think he’d love our team,” Moser said. “We share (the ball). I think he’d say we play the right way.”

The Ramblers will play the Michigan Wolverines in the first of two NCAA semifinals Saturday.

“We’ve got to be the first team in Final Four history to win the first four games with no dunks” Moser said. “It’s a stat I’m not proud of.

“But I think (coach Majerus) would be proud of our guys and how unselfish (they are) and how they share it.”

Loyola-Chicago to the Final Four after victory over Kansas State

In what could be viewed as a boost for all the underdogs in life, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers have qualified to play in the NCAA Final Four.

The 11th-seeded Ramblers claimed their ticket to San Antonio with a 78-62 victory over Kansas State Saturday in Atlanta for the South Regional championship.

It is Loyola’s first trip to the Final Four since the Ramblers won the 1963 NCAA championship.

Winners of 14 in a row and 21 of their last 22, the Missouri Valley Conference champions tied with three other programs in the modern history of the tournament as the lowest seed to reach the national semifinals.

In addition, a basketball coincidence has emerged with Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser coming to the Alamodome.

The late Rick Majerus brought his Utah Utes to the Final Four in 1998 in San Antonio’s first year to host the event.

Rising through the coaching ranks, Moser always considered Majerus as one of his mentors.

He worked on Majerus’ staff at Saint Louis for four years before taking the job at Loyola-Chicago in 2011.

Majerus, battling heart trouble, died in 2012. He was 64.

“It’s hard to quantify all the things I got from him,” Moser, the MVC Coach of the Year, told the Chicago Tribune recently. “I made the most of four years with him as a friend and a coach.”

Lowest seeds to the Final Four

No team seeded lower than No. 11 has ever made it to the NCAA Final Four since 1985, according to The Sporting News.

The following are the lowest seeds to make it:

No. 11 — LSU (in 1986), George Mason (2006) and Virginia Commonwealth (2011)

No. 10 — Syracuse (2016)

No. 9 — Wichita State (2013)

No. 8 — Villanova (1985), North Carolina (2000), Wisconsin (2000), Butler (2011), Kentucky (2014).

Note: The tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.