Sooners in San Antonio to Face UTSA
MONDAY'S GAME BASICS
Oklahoma (1-0, 0-0 Big 12) continues its two-game Texas road trip on Monday when it heads to the Alamo City to face UTSA (0-1, 0-0 C-USA) at Convocation Center. The Sooners look to finish their trip strong, coming off of a 91-76 season-opening win at UTRGV on Friday. Lon Kruger will face former assistant and 2018 C-USA Coach of the Year Steve Henson, now in his third year at the UTSA helm.
The 7 p.m. CT contest will be the first time OU has ever played a men’s basketball game in the city of San Antonio.
ON THE AIR
Monday’s matchup will air on the Sooner Radio Network (KRXO 107.7 FM “The Franchise” in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa; Tune In Radio App) with Tom Dore and Kevin Henry announcing. John Sadak and Pete Gillen will call the action on CBS Sports Network. Fans with proper cable verification can also stream the game on CBSSports.com/Live.
• For just the second time since 1939 and the first since 1977, the Sooners open the season with two true road games. Oklahoma and North Carolina are the only schools from a major conference (American, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac 12 and SEC) to begin the 2018-19 campaign with a pair of true road contests. This schedule marks the first time the Sooners have begun their season with two road games outside the state of Oklahoma since Hall of Fame coach Bruce Drake’s first season as head coach in 1938 (OU played back-to-back games at Colorado that year).
• Similar to the Sooners’ season opener against UTRGV, Monday’s matchup at UTSA will be against a former Oklahoma assistant coach. Steve Henson is in third year at the helm of the UTSA program, joining the Roadrunners after nearly three decades of playing and working for Lon Kruger. Henson was a four-year starting point guard for Kruger at Kansas State from 1986-90, earning All-Big Eight Conference honors as a junior and senior. Following his professional career, Henson joined Kruger’s coaching staffs for 15 seasons with four different teams.
• Senior guard Christian James is coming off of a career performance in OU’s opener at UTRGV. James scored a career-best 29 points (previous high was 23) and sunk four 3-pointers in the season-opening win. His 29 points are the most by a Sooner in the first game of a season since Buddy Hield scored 30 in the 2015 opener at Memphis. James’ scoring output also marks the most points scored by a Big 12 player through the first week of this season.
UTSA head coach Steve Henson (left) was an assistant for Lon Kruger for 15 seasons, including OU's run to the 2016 Final Four.
SERIES HISTORY: UTSA
• Oklahoma owns a 3-0 all-time record against the Roadrunners and defeated UTSA, 97-85, last season in Norman. This will be the Sooners’ first road matchup against UTSA.
• OU is 38-6 all-time against current members of Conference USA and is 4-1 against C-USA teams during the Kruger era.
• Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger will face his long-time assistant Steve Henson for the second time since Henson was named head coach at UTSA in 2016. A former point guard for Kruger’s Kansas State 1986-1990 teams, Henson got his start in coaching as an assistant for Kruger at Illinois in 1999 and went on to also be a member of Kruger’s staff with the Atlanta Hawks, UNLV and Oklahoma for a combined 15 seasons. When Henson was hired by UTSA, the Roadrunners were coming off a last-place 5-27 season. Just two years later, Henson coached UTSA to a 20-15 record and fifth-place finish in Conference USA, earning himself the 2018 C-USA Coach of the Year honors.
• Joining Henson on the UTSA staff is assistant coach Scott Thompson, who served as OU’s video coordinator from 2011-16.
• Oklahoma associate head coach Chris Crutchfield spent one season (1996-97) as an assistant at UTSA early on in his coaching career.
• The Sooners’ first meeting against the Roadrunners in 1983 still holds a special place in the OU record book. Oklahoma legend Wayman Tisdale scored a program-record 61 points and pulled down 22 rebounds in the 112-72 victory.
• To learn more about Henson's connection to Kruger and Oklahoma, read John Rohde's story on the Kruger coaching tree here.
RECAPPING OU'S SEASON-OPENING WIN
• Oklahoma opened its season with a 91-76 road victory at UTRGV on Friday. It was just the third time in the past 40 years the Sooners opened the year with a true road game. The Sooners’ win came against former OU assistant Lew Hill, in his third year as head coach of the Vaqueros. Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger is now 8-0 in season openers at OU.
• The Sooners were led by a career performance from senior guard Christian James, who poured in a career-best 29 points. James sunk four 3-pointers (was 3-of-5 from deep in the first half) and added three rebounds and a pair of steals. His 29 points are the most by a Sooner in the first game of the season since Buddy Hield totaled 30 in the 2015 opener at Memphis.
• Sophomore forward Brady Manek recorded his first career double-double, racking up 12 points and 12 rebounds. The performance was just his second career game with double-digit rebounds. Senior center Jamuni McNeace was a point shy (nine points, 12 rebounds) of joining Manek with a double-double.
• The season opener was the Oklahoma debut for four new Sooners. Graduate transfer Aaron Calixte received the start at point guard, recording 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting while dishing out three dimes. Graduate guard Miles Reynolds (seven points), junior forward Kur Kuath (two points, two rebounds) and freshman guard Jamal Bieniemy (one point, four assists) also donned the Crimson and Cream for the first time.
• The Sooners shot 50 percent from the field and 11-of-23 (.478) from 3-point range.
• Ten Oklahoma players scored and also dished out at least one assist.
• Last season’s Sooner squad was one of the youngest teams in both the Big 12 and the country. With nine freshmen and sophomores and only one senior, Oklahoma was the second least-experienced team in the conference, according to KenPom.com. The analytics website’s formula, based on age and collegiate playing experience, ranked the Sooners 304 out of 351 Division I teams in experience. It will be a different story for Oklahoma this season, as its roster now features eight seniors or graduate students and only one scholarship freshman. Using the same KenPom experience metric, Oklahoma is No. 15 in experience this season and No. 1 among teams from major conferences.
• Through the combination of time and targeting experienced transfers in recruiting, the Sooners now boast the most seniors and graduates of any team in the Big 12. With seven more seniors/graduates than 2017-18, Oklahoma owns the largest-known increase of seniors in NCAA Division I this season. The Sooners’ average age on opening night in 2017 was 19.9. On the day of OU’s 2018 season opener (Nov. 9), the Oklahoma roster was an average age of 21.1 and the oldest in the Big 12.
• Christian James, Rashard Odomes and Jamuni McNeace form the core group of OU seniors, as all three have spent at least three years in the Sooners’ program. The trio combines for 266 games of collegiate experience and 105 starts. Both James and Odomes have been consistent members of OU’s starting lineup over the past two seasons, while McNeace continued to see his role expanded as the 2017-18 season progressed. James’ 11.9 points per game last season are the most among returning players while McNeace led Sooner returners in rebounds (5.4) and blocked shots (1.4). With a 7-foot-4 wingspan and one of the most athletic builds on the team, McNeace is gearing towards having a breakout senior season as the Sooners’ starting center.
• Oklahoma also installed significant experience and leadership into its roster through the addition of two graduate transfer guards: Aaron Calixte and Miles Reynolds. An experienced point guard from the University of Maine, Calixte brings career averages of 11.6 points and 3.0 assists. With 1,125 career points to his name, Calixte averaged 16.9 points per game and shot 61-of-158 (.386) from 3-point range in 2017-18. Calixte faces the challenge of filling OU’s point guard role, left open by Trae Young’s top-five selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, but will rely on his own experience at the position along with veteran players surrounding him.
• Reynolds joins the Sooners after two seasons at Pacific, where he scored 13.3 points a game last season. The guard has experience at both the point guard position and playing off the ball and aims to lend a veteran voice to the court and locker room. In the team’s annual player poll, Reynolds’ teammates voted him the best vocal leader and one of OU’s best leaders by example.
THE OTHER STAR FRESHMAN
• Last season, freshman sensation Trae Young catapulted himself into the national spotlight by becoming the first college player to lead the country in points and assists. While Young’s dominating success garnished the headlines, fellow freshman Brady Manek quietly put together a solid rookie season of his own. The forward ranked in the top 10 among Big 12 freshmen in points (10.2), rebounds (5.2), blocks (0.7), 3-point field goal percentage (.383) and made 3-pointers (59). Manek’s 312 points were the 12th-most by a freshman in OU history and his 59 3-pointers rank fourth-most ever by a Sooner rookie. He was one of three Big 12 freshmen to average over 10 points and 5 rebounds and one of only nine Division I freshmen to produce at least 160 rebounds and 50 3-pointers over the 2017-18 season.
• Manek proved to be a crucial component in the Sooners’ winning recipe. In Oklahoma’s 18 victories last season, Manek averaged 12.4 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 46-of-91 (.505) from 3-point range. OU was 11-4 when Manek scored in double figures and 7-0 when he hit four or more 3-pointers.
• Now entering his sophomore season, Manek will continue to be a key piece for the Sooners to succeed. He is one of two returning Sooners to average double-digit scoring in 2017-18 and his 26 starts are the second most among returners.
• In each of the past three seasons, ESPN’s College Basketball Index has ranked the Sooners’ strength of schedule as one of the top-five toughest in the country, and the Sooners head into the 2018-19 season with a chance to continue that trend through tough competition and marquee games.
• Continually proving to be the toughest and deepest conferences in college basketball, the Big 12 will once again provide a challenging double round-robin schedule. Eight of OU’s nine Big 12 opponents (Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia) qualified for the 2018 NCAA Tournament or NIT.
• The Sooners will prepare for the Big 12 portion of the schedule with a packed non-conference lineup. OU will play as many as nine non-conference contests against teams that have reached the NCAA Tournament at least once in the past two seasons. Five teams qualified for the 2018 NCAA Tournament and an additional four competed in the 2018 NIT. The non-conference schedule is highlighted by home games against Wichita State (Dec. 8 in Oklahoma City) and Creighton (Dec. 18) and neutral-site contests against Florida (Nov. 21 in Bahamas), Notre Dame (Dec. 4 in New York City) and Southern California (Dec. 15 in Tulsa).
UP NEXT: WOFFORD
• Oklahoma plays at Lloyd Noble Center for the first time in the 2018-19 regular season when it hosts Wofford on Sunday, Nov. 18 at 1 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Sooners and Terriers will face off for the first time on the hardwood.
• The Sooners are 9-1 all-time against current members of the Southern Conference. Wofford is one of three SoCon schools that OU has not faced in its men’s basketball history (The Citadel and VMI).
• OU has won 24 straight home openers (seven straight under Kruger). The Sooners’ last loss in a home opener came in 1993 to John Calipari-coached Massachusetts.
• Oklahoma has won 16 of its last 18 games at Lloyd Noble Center, including a 13-2 home record last season - the second best in the Big 12. The Sooners have won 132 of its last 139 non-conference games at LNC and 66 of its last 70. The Sooners are 40-4 in Norman against non-conference opponents under Kruger.
• Be there to cheer on the Sooners by purchasing tickets at SoonerSports.com/tickets.