Guard play has spurred Oklahoma’s mid-season surge, and the Sooners have climbed all the way to No. 7 in the AP Poll.
De’Vion Harmon and Austin Reaves have shouldered the load as OU’s primary ball handlers, and their leadership has helped spur the Sooners on their upward trajectory.
As they’ve grown into this season together, Harmon said his relationship off the court has grown with Reaves.
“I think our relationship has gotten tremendous, has grown drastically in the past year with us playing some of the best basketball,” Harmon said.
The duo leads Oklahoma in both points and assists per game, with Reaves averaging 16.8 points and 5.2 assists, and Harmon adding 12.4 points and 2.1 assists per game. Reaves is also OU’s leading rebounding, pulling down 5.5 boards per game.
“Us being able to do that and being the leaders of this team, it’s been amazing,” Harmon said. “I feel like— all of us are on the same page, but I feel like when me and Austin are on the same page, for the most part, we’re a really good team and the rest fo the guys follow the lead and we like that.
“Both of us want to win and we do whatever it takes to bring wins to this team. And just being those leaders on the basketball court, it’s fun.”
This season, Reaves has raised his level of play. Even Lon Kruger said he and didn’t anticipate the player Reaves would become when he transferred to Oklahoma from Wichita State.
“We liked his skill set, we liked his basketball mentality, his instincts, his ability to shoot it,” Kruger said. “I don’t know that you can ever project a guy to do quite what Austin’s done because it’s been at such a high level.
“Hard to say we projected him to be a guy that’s in the running for player of the year in the conference. He’s a guy that’s deserving of that. … He’s a big-time competitor.”
The level-headed guard play from Reaves and Harmon has allowed the Sooners to navigate the Big 12 Conference slate in impressive fashion, racking up five wins against top-15 teams.
Even against the “lesser” teams in the league, the duo is looked upon to steady the ship. After a 21-point lead evaporated in Ames against Iowa State on Saturday, Kruger put the ball into Reaves’ hands to recapture the lead.
Though the Sooners recovered and finished off the season sweep of the Cyclones, Harmon said they have to maintain their level of play no matter who the opponent is.
“We’ve got to stay locked in. No matter what the score is,” he said. “No matter how good the first 20 minutes are, we’ve got to play a 40-minute ballgame.”
Headed into Bramlage Coliseum, a venue in which the Sooners haven’t won since 2012, OU catches a Kansas State Wildcats squad coming off perhaps their best game of the season.
“We have a great deal of respect for how together Coach (Bruce) Weber has kept Kansas State. They are coming off their best performance with their win at TCU,” Kruger said.
The Wildcats topped the Horned Frogs 62-54 on Saturday, powered by senior guard Mike McGuirl’s 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
“That togetherness, that continued effort, was rewarded Saturday night. We know they’ll come with a little additional hop in their step as a result of that, Kruger said. “ … We have great respect for what they do, the movement, how though they are mentally and defensively and all those things that Coach Weber’s teams are always about.”
Tip from Manhattan is slated for 8 p.m. Tuesday evening, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
To Harmon, the matchup against Kansas State is just as important as any of OU’s big ranked wins from earlier in the season.
“To us, it doesn’t matter if we’re playing an unranked team or a ranked team. It doesn’t matter where they’re at. Every game is a big game,” he said. “The job is always to win. That’s always the personality of this team is to go out there and win ball games.
“If we win games, that’s all that matters.