A couple of days before Oklahoma left for the ESPN Events Invitational, Sooners coach Porter Moser pulled Tanner Groves aside.
“That ain’t going to happen again,” Moser told Groves after his star big man went 0-for-10 on 3-pointers in a win over South Alabama.
Moser said he was trying to get Groves’ confidence up, to have him keep shooting despite his struggles.
It worked in the Sooners’ first game in the event, and Groves will look to continue his rebound when Oklahoma takes on Seton Hall in the semifinals Friday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
In the Sooners’ 69-56 win over Nebraska in the first round, Groves was 7-for-8 from the floor, making all three of his 3-pointers, and scored a season-high 17 points.
“It’s what you do with a shooter,” Moser said of buoying Groves’ confidence. “You’ve got to keep shooting. You gotta keep shooting. You can’t go the other way. No, you can’t have doubt. Can’t seep into it.”
While the 6-foot-10 Groves regularly shoots from beyond the arc, Seton Hall’s Tyrese Samuel hadn’t — until Thursday.
Samuel didn’t make a 3-pointer this season entering Thursday’s tournament opener against Memphis, but he opened the Pirates’ scoring with one.
Then in the closing seconds, with Seton Hall down two, Samuel caught an in-bounds pass and pulled up from the top of the key. His shot bounced in off the backboard to give the Pirates the 70-69 victory.
Seven of Samuel’s team-high 14 points came in the final 1:10.
The 6-foot-10 Samuel has seemingly taken a step forward in his fourth season, averaging 11.2 points through five games after averaging 5.3 points per game in his first three seasons.
“I’m playing every day like I’m on a one-day contract,” Samuel told the Asbury Park Press.
The Sooners have won two of the previous three meetings between the teams (though they haven’t played one another since 2013).
The winner of Friday’s game will take on Siena or Ole Miss in Sunday’s championship game.
–Field Level Media