Oklahoma’s season tipped off more than a week later than expected, but it was worth the wait as the Sooners raced past the University of Texas-San Antonio 105-66 to win their 18th consecutive season opener.
The Sooners wore BillyBall patches to honor the life and legacy of late coaching legend Billy Tubbs, who died in October, but it was their fearsome defense and their precision shooting that paid Tubbs the greatest tribute.
If there were any concern about rust, head coach Lon Kruger’s squad put those to bed early as OU poured in 105 points and 17 3-pointers in their first action since March. The Sooners looked unfazed by the lack of fans in attendance on their way to an impressive 50-percent shooting performance.
It was a complete team effort for Oklahoma with four different Sooners contributing double-digit scoring performances. Leading the way was senior Brady Manek, who notched an efficient 29 points on 15 shots.
“When you have a player like that it’s such a threat,” Kruger said of the 6-9 forward. “It affects the defense and the attention they have to give him. And if they don’t give him that attention, he has a really good percentage to knock it down.”
Manek needed only 11 three-point attempts to knock down his career high eight triples in his final season opener as a Sooner.
The team was excited to finally get back on the court and showed it jumping off to a quick 18-point lead in the first eight minutes.
“It’s been a really long time since we got to play and I think we came out good today, we came out and hit them first,” Manek said. “It’s good to see us come out first and have them down at half and come out right at half and get it going again.”
The huge offensive numbers only tell half the story for OU in this one, however. The Sooners played a suffocating brand of defense, forcing the Road Runners into 18 total turnovers.
The Sooners stayed active on that end of the court, coming away with nine team steals. Oklahoma’s lockdown defensive rotations lead to UTSA shooting below 30 percent from the 3-point line, but Kruger thinks this team is capable of more.
“For the most part, I thought our awareness, our communication was pretty good, transition defensively was not bad,” Kruger said. “It’s the first game, and we knew we needed to play it and we’re going to learn a lot from it.”
De’Vion Harmon poured in 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go with five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Eight of the Sooners’ nine scholarship players scored, including freshman sharpshooter Trey Phipps, who hit 4-of-9 from 3-point range and finished with 12 points. Kur Kuath also scored 10, including a thunderous, athletic dunk over a UTSA defender from the baseline.
Senior Austin Reaves and transfer Umoja Gibson each scored eight and sophomore Jalen Hill was active with seven points, six rebounds and two steals.
Because of schedule changes due to COVID, this was the Sooners’ only chance at competition before Big 12 Conference play begins this weekend. Oklahoma travels to Fort Worth this Sunday (3 p.m., ESPN2) to take on TCU in a rematch of the final game of last season before the shutdown.
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