NORMAN- After an eight day delay to start the season, the Oklahoma Sooners exploded for a 105-66 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.
An outbreak of COVID-19 amongst the Oklahoma athletic department forced the Sooners to shut down activities, cancelling matchups against the UCF Knights and Florida Gators, as well as forcing the Roadrunners to reschedule last week’s season opener.
Despite the unexpected layoff, the Sooners showed no signs of rust. Oklahoma flat out shot the Roadrunners out of the gym, finishing 34-of-68 from the field and 17-of-34 from deep.
“It’s been a long time since we got to play a game and I think we came out good today,” Senior forward Brady Manek said after the game.
“[We] came out and hit them first and that hasn’t happened with us in a while,” he said. “It was good to see us come out first and have them down at half and come out right at half and get it going again.”
Manek led the way for the Sooners, draining a career high eight triples (with an efficient 8-of-11 night from behind the arc) on his way to a 29 point performance.
“[Manek] just continues to keep working on expanding his game. He’s always been a good shooter and he’s shooting the ball with great confidence,” Head Coach Lon Kruger said after the game. “Happy for Brady. He’s had a great career and expect him to have an outstanding senior year.”
Manek was the beneficiary of great service from his teammates all night long, including from sophomore guard De’Vion Harmon.
Despite starting the game from the bench, Harmon was the Sooners second leading scorer with 22 points, also adding five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
After an up and down freshman campaign, Harmon was a steadying force for Oklahoma, spurred on by his efficient 7-of-11 shooting night. Harmon said after the game that improving his jump shot was his main focus during the offseason.
“That’s all me and my pops worked on. For five months straight we were up in the gym getting up thousands and thousands of shots,” Harmon said. “It paid off tonight.”
Harmon was also active on the defensive end of the floor, helping his Sooners force 18 turnovers.
“Our defense starts our offense and that’s how it’s going to be every night,” Harmon said. “The reason we put up 105 points tonight was because of our defense.”
Veteran big man Kur Kuath also was active on the defensive end of the floor, finishing with a block and three rebounds on the night.
Kuath’s most memorable moment of the night was when he brought the limited crowd at the Lloyd Noble Center to their feet with a monster dunk.
Receiving the ball a few feet from the basket on the baseline, Kuath squared up to the bucket as if he was going to shoot. But after a moment of hesitation, Kuath put the ball on the floor and delivered an emphatic slam over 6-foot-11-inch Roadrunner center Jacob Germany.
Harmon said he was speechless at Kuath’s effort, thinking he was just going to settle for the open jump shot.
“I guess his eyes got big and took that one dribble and when he went up I looked and I said ‘no he is not’,” Harmon said. “That was pretty different.”
Senior Austin Reaves adjusted to a new role to start the season. The explosive scorer was also the primary ball handler for the Sooners to start the game.
“Austin did a really good job. I thought he played with a lot of security. Very unselfish and got other people involved,” Kruger said.
Reaves looked to get his teammates involved early, contributing to his four assists on the night, Kruger said.
With the added emphasis on setting up his teammates, Kruger said he wasn’t concerned about Reaves finishing with just eight points.
“He’s a guy that’s going to also score for us, no question about that,” Kruger said.
The Sooners will now head to Ft. Worth to open conference play on Sunday against the TCU Horned Frogs, which is why Kruger said it was essential for the Sooners to get this game rescheduled this week. With the shutdown in basketball operations, Kruger said he was curious what physical condition the team was in.
“I didn’t feel like [the conditioning] was too bad given our spotty practice opportunities over the last two weeks,” Kruger said. “When you haven’t played against outside competition you never know for sure.”
After the strong opening to the season, the Sooners will just have to focus more on continuing to grow as a group and less on the odd nature of opening conference play just two games into the season, Kruger said.
“We’ve got to do what we did tonight, do the things we did tonight well understanding it’s against Big 12 competition,” Kruger said. “Having a conference game this early is different, but again, it’s the COVID year.”
“We’ll line up and do what we need to do.”