Oklahoma Sooners vs. Monmouth-NJ Hawks Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 31st 2023

Oklahoma coach Porter Moser wasn’t surprised his team struggled in Thursday’s win over Central Arkansas after eight days between games and coming off its first loss of the season.

“We’ve just got to keep logging practices, getting better, but it’s hard to respond after you take five days off,” Moser said. “This team really wants to be good. These guys want it. I’ve done this long enough to know that it’s better to have teaching moments after you win than teaching moments after stubbing your toe.”

Moser expects more from the 12th-ranked Sooners (11-1) against Monmouth (7-5) on Sunday in both teams’ nonconference finale in Norman, Okla.

The Sooners are looking to equal their best nonconference mark since 2018-19, when they went 12-1 outside of Big 12 play during the regular season.

Oklahoma shot 51.7 percent from the field in Thursday’s victory but struggled defensively through much of the game’s first 30 minutes before a late run finally put away the 88-72 win.

“In hindsight, you get growth in life through struggle,” Moser said. “The fact we struggled a little bit … is only going to help us with teaching moments the next 48 hours.”

Otega Oweh leads the Sooners with 15.7 points per game while Javian McCollum is averaging 15.0.

The Hawks already have equaled their win total from last season’s 7-26 squad.

Monmouth senior guard Xander Rice has been a big reason for the improvement, averaging 19.3 points.

He is coming off a 24-point performance in the Hawks’ 77-71 win over Manhattan on Dec. 21. It was his eighth 20-point game of the season.

As Rice has thrived, opponents are throwing all different kinds of defensive looks at the 6-foot-3 Bucknell transfer.

“They’re trying to throw a lot of different defenses at me, trying to switch things up and I think what they are trying to do is just make things more difficult for me,” Rice said. “Because I feel like if I am comfortable and know the reads I’m looking for off ball screens the game kind of slows down and becomes easy, so I think they’re just trying to speed me up.”

Nikita Konstantynovskyi has heated up over the last two games. The 6-foot-10 center averaged 19 points and 11.5 rebounds in the wins over Rider and Manhattan while missing only four of his 19 shots from the field.

The interior matchup between Konstantynovskyi and Oklahoma’s Sam Godwin figures to be one of the keys to the game.

The 6-foot-9 Godwin has been a force on the offensive glass, averaging 3.7 offensive rebounds per game — more than twice as many as any other Sooners player.

Konstantynovskyi has eight offensive rebounds in the last two games.

Sunday’s game is the first-ever meeting between the programs.

The Hawks have already defeated a Big 12 opponent this season, beating West Virginia 73-65 on the road Nov. 10.

–Field Level Media

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