NORMAN- A pair of transfers announced themselves as the Oklahoma Sooners coasted past the ORU Golden Eagles 79-65 on Wednesday evening.
Hours before tip-off, the Sooners announced California State Northridge transfer Elijah Harkless had been granted his waiver of eligibility from the NCAA.
Harkless, known as a defensive stopper, made his presence felt in his 10 minutes of action.
After a good contest to shut down the Golden Eagles on his first possession, Harkless drew a charge on his third time down the floor to give the ball back to the Sooners.
Even more impressive was the fact that Harkless just had a few hours notice to prepare for the game.
“He just learned this afternoon that he’s going to be eligible to play,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said after the game. “He’s practiced hard, he’s a good competitor. He’s going to be huge to this ball club.”
While he was an impact player on the defensive end of the floor, Harkless finished the night with zero points, but Kruger said there is no worry about his scoring ability.
Another transfer stepped up to pour it on from deep tonight in the form of Umoja Gibson.
The North Texas transfer started the season out slow, but got his feet under him against Oral Roberts. Gibson was by far the Sooners best deep threat, sinking 4-of-7 threes on his way to scoring 14 points.
“Great to see that from [Umoja], he works so hard and he’s a good shooter,” Kruger said. “[Gibson] making shots was the least of our concern. We knew he was going to make shots, he does it every day in practice.”
Gibson acknowledged there was a transition period, but he’s starting to feel comfortable in Oklahoma’s offense.
“Coming in it’s like a chicken with my head cut off… I’m coming in, I’m learning a whole new terminology, learning where to be at on the floor, just picking my spots out,” Gibson said.
“But I’m starting to feel the flow and feel the rhythm.”
“I feel like I’m very close. I ain’t at the level that I want to be at right now… I just have to continue to work and continue to grind,” he said.
The Sooners were able to extend their lead against the Golden Eagles early with stifling defense.
Entering the game, ORU was ranked third in the nation in three points made per game, drilling 13.3 triples on average.
In the first half, the Oklahoma defense held the Golden Eagles to just 21 percent shooting from the field and a dismal 2-of-16 from behind the arc.
Out of the break, ORU cut into the Sooners’ 18-point halftime advantage until the defense stood strong once again and allowed Oklahoma to pull away for good.
“They kind of stayed with us in the second half and we couldn’t really extend that lead but we were playing tougher on the defensive end which really helped it,” Brady Manek said after the game.
Second half contributions from Manek and Austin Reaves helped push the Sooners over the finish line.
Early in the second, Manek began to feel it from three finishing with 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting. Manek also added an assist to go along with nine rebounds, including a monster one handed put-back slam to ignite the Oklahoma bench.
With about 10 minutes left in the game, it would be Reaves’ turn to come alive. Held scoreless until that point, Reaves poured 18 points in over the last quarter of the contest to lead the Sooners in scoring.
“Austin has got great security as a player. He’s not worried about scoring, he’s worried about getting a good shot every time down,” Kruger said. “When he needs to go score, he’s obviously capable of doing that.”
Dominating the closing phase of the game, Reaves almost had a triple double, adding 10 rebounds and seven assists to his scoring total.
In the victory, Oklahoma flashed their depth with 28 points from the bench. The addition of Harkless will only serve as a boost to an already deep Sooners roster.
“Depth, especially in a year like this when you’re not always sure what your roster will look like, is huge,” Kruger said. “A lot of guys played well and did a good job.”
The Sooners will return to action in the Lloyd Noble Center when they host the Houston Baptist University Huskies on Saturday.
Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.