NORMAN, Okla. – With Oklahoma set to join the Southeastern Conference in 2025, Sooners fans used the SEC/Big 12 Challenge to give Alabama a dose of the energy they plan to bring to the league.
After taunting the second-ranked Crimson Tide with chants of “S-E-C” and “overrated” in the second half, the fans stormed the court — a rare occurrence at Oklahoma. Grant Sherfield scored a season-high 30 points, and the Sooners beat Alabama 93-69 on Saturday.
It was the kind of moment second-year Oklahoma coach Porter Moser envisioned when he left Loyola of Chicago to take over the Sooners.
“I thought the crowd was unbelievable," he said. “I sat there when the crowd rushed the floor — you know, my younger self might have ran out in the middle of it — and I just sat there and just said, ‘This is a vision.’ And like, this kind of excitement with the student body — I thought they were awesome. They were there early. Best crowd I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Jalen Hill added a career-high 26 points on 9-for-11 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. He also was assigned to guard Alabama freshman Brandon Miller, who came in averaging 19.5 points, but finished with 11 on 4-for-14 shooting.
Hill said he wanted to show what he was about.
“I feel like I had something to prove," the senior said. "He’s going to be a top-five draft pick at the end of the day, and I just wanted to prove to everybody — the scouts, the country — that I can hang with him.”
Moser said it was a typical defensive performance for Hill.
“What he does night in and night out, the guys he guards — he’s guarding lottery picks and he is resilient," Moser said. "He’s played a lot of minutes. And then for him to have that defensive effort and have 26 points as well. I mean, what a performance by Jalen.”
Tanner Groves had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Oklahoma (12-9), which shot 58% from the field and posted a season-high point total. It was Oklahoma’s first win over a team ranked in the AP’s top two since the 2002 Big 12 Tournament and its largest victory margin ever against an AP top-five team.
The Sooners had lost three straight, but there had been some signs of progress. They had three losses to Top 25 teams by four or fewer points in January.
Alabama coach Nate Oats said the loss could be costly when it comes to NCAA Tournament seeding.
“It doesn’t have any effect on SEC standings, which is the only good thing to come out of this,” he said. "Hopefully, we will recover from a loss out of conference, but, you know, it’s not good. We needed the SEC to do well in this Big 12 challenge. We obviously didn’t do our job on it.”
The Crimson Tide (18-3) had won nine in a row, but Oats said the team hadn't been playing well. Rylan Griffen, who led Alabama with 15 points, said Oats had warned the team about its lackluster play.
“We didn’t really listen," Griffen said. “We didn’t come out ready to fight. ... You could kind of feel that we thought we were kind of untouchable.”
Oklahoma led 50-33 at halftime and it didn’t look like a fluke. Sherfield scored 18 points before the break and helped the Sooners shoot 68% from the field in the first 20 minutes. Hill added 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting.
The half was punctuated by Hill scoring on a spin move in the closing seconds and Miller getting issued a technical foul.
Alabama trimmed its deficit to 11 in the second half, but Hill’s dunk on a fast break pushed Oklahoma's lead back to 64-46 and got the crowd juiced up. Sherfield’s crossover and fadeaway 3-pointer put the Sooners ahead 78-53.
Alabama: The young Crimson Tide got picked apart by a team with veterans. The Crimson Tide lacked energy and never really challenged the Sooners. They made 6 of 22 3-pointers and had just six assists.
Oklahoma: Sherfield had been in a slump, having made 10 of 34 field goals during Oklahoma's three-game losing streak. He found his shot and found teammates, making 11 of 20 field goals and finishing with six assists to help create balance for the Sooners.
Alabama: Hosts Vanderbilt on Tuesday.
Oklahoma: Hosts Oklahoma State on Wednesday.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25