OU Hosts Wofford in Home Opener

Ben Coldagelli
By Ben Coldagelli
Director of Communications

Wofford
WOFFORDoklahoma
Oklahoma
November 18 | 1 p.m. | Norman

THURSDAY'S GAME BASICS

After starting the season with a pair of true road games, Oklahoma (2-0, 0-0 Big 12) hosts its home opener on Sunday at 1 p.m. CT against Wofford (2-1, 0-0 SoCon). The Sooners are coming off a 20-point road win at UTSA on Monday and aim to start the season 3-0 for the fifth time under Lon Kruger. Wofford, a team that upset then-No. 5 North Carolina last season in Chapel Hill, will provide the Sooners with a solid home test before OU heads to the Bahamas for the 2018 Battle 4 Atlantis.

ON THE AIR

Sunday'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 Toby Rowland and Kevin Henry announcing. Chad McKee and Dan Hughes will call the action on Fox Sports Oklahoma. Fans with proper cable verification can also stream the game on the Fox Sports Go App and FoxSportsGo.com.

TICKETS

Celebrating the start of the home season, OU Athletics is offering fans free admission to Sunday's opener when they present their OU-Kansas football ticket. Fans can show their football ticket and redeem their free basketball ticket at the north and east ticket windows.

OU students will be admitted free to the game with a valid school I.D.

Fans can also purchase tickets starting at just $10. Tickets are available at the OU Athletics Ticket Office (800-456-4668) and online here. Lloyd Noble Center's north and east ticket windows will open at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.

IN THE BONUS

• The OU Bookstore is offering season ticket holders an opportunity to save on Sooner gear heading into the holiday season. Season ticket holders will receive a coupon for up to 30% off of a purchase. Between OU's first three games (Pittsburg State on Nov. 1, Wofford on Nov. 18 and North Texas on Nov. 27), fans can build up their discount, starting with 10% off for attending one game, 20% off for attending two games and 30% off for attending all three. Coupons will be sent in early December.

• OU students with student season tickets can pick up their free BoomSquad t-shirt upon entering the north student entrance.

• Fans are encouraged to #ArriveSooner to avoid delays into the gates with enhanced screenings. OU's clear bag policy will also be in efffect. For more gameday tips at Lloyd Noble Center, visit the LNC's information page.

• Looking for a deal on your pregame lunch? Fans with a ticket to Sunday's game will receive a buy-one, get-one BBQ sandwich at Rudy's, located at Highway 9 and Chautauqua Avenue.


THREE POINTERS

• Sunday's matchup against Wofford is the regular-season home opener for the Sooners, who come in 2-0 after a pair of road victories. 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.

• OU opens its home slate against an experienced non-conference opponent in Wofford. A program with four NCAA Tournament appearances since 2010, Wofford put together a 21-13 record (11-7 in SoCon play) last season and returns four of its five starters. The Terriers pulled off a big road upset last season, defeating No. 5 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 79-75.

• Heading into his senior season, guard Christian James had never surpassed 23 points in his first 97 games as a Sooner. Two games into his final collegiate campaign, the guard has posted 29 points at UTRGV (Nov. 9) and 24 at UTSA (Nov. 12). James leads the Big 12 in scoring with 26.5 points per game and his field goal percentage of .630 (17-of-27) is fourth among Big 12 players who have taken at least 20 shots. As of Friday, James ranks eighth in the country and second among players from major conferences in points per game.

Christian James

Christian James leads the Big 12 in scoring with 26.5 points per game.

SERIES HISTORY: WOFFORD

• The Sooners and Terriers are facing off for the first time on the hardwood. Oklahoma is 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).


RECAPPING OU'S WIN OVER UTSA

• Oklahoma (2-0) picked up its second straight road win on Monday against UTSA (0-2) in San Antonio. Senior guard Christian James led the Sooners with an efficient 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting (3-of-5 from 3-point range) while graduate guard Aaron Calixte added 18 points and four dimes. The pair each scored a dozen points in the second half.

• UTSA missed its first 16 shots and committed five turnovers in the opening seven minutes. The Roadrunners first basket came eight minutes into the game. UTSA eventually caught back up to the Sooners, taking a 52-48 lead early in the second half. The Sooners closed the game on a 39-15 run to remain unbeaten following their second road contest.

• Freshman guard Jamal Bieniemy scored eight points (all in the second half) and added a team-high four assists and five steals. His five swipes are tied for the most by an OU freshman during the Big 12 era.

• Sophomore forward Brady Manek totaled 10 points and 11 rebounds for his second double-double in as many games this season (he entered the season with zero career double-doubles).


SENIOR-HEAVY SOONERS

• 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. 23 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 272 games of collegiate experience and 109 starts. Both James and Odomes have been consistent members of OU's starting lineup over the past three 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.


LARRY FROM THE PRARIE

• 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.

• Manek has been off to a strong start in his first two games of the season. Entering the year with no career double-doubles and only one game of over 10 rebounds, Manek has produced double-doubles in each of his first two games as a sophomore. The forward recorded 12 points and 12 rebounds to open the season at UTRGV (Nov. 9) and 10 points with 11 boards at UTSA (Nov. 12).


UP NEXT: FLORIDA

• Next up, Oklahoma heads to Paradise Island, Bahamas to play three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, beginning with a quarterfinals matchup against Florida on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 11 a.m. CT on ESPN. The Sooners will make their second appearance in the Battle 4 Atlantis, previously claiming second place in 2014 with wins over UCLA and Butler before falling to Wisconsin in the title game.

• The Sooners and Gators have met just twice previously with Florida winning both contests. UF defeated OU, 84-52, in Norman in 2017 as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. In their first meeting, Florida prevailed in overtime, 76-72, in the 1995 All-College Basketball Classic in Oklahoma City under an up-and-coming head coach named...Lon Kruger.

• Kruger coached the Gators from 1990 to 1996, racking up a record of 104-80. When Kruger took over the Florida job, the Gators were coming off of a 7-21 season. Four years into the role, Kruger guided UF to the 1994 Final Four. The turnaround work was almost identical to his time at Oklahoma, in which he also inherited a team coming off a losing season (14-18 in 2010-11) and led the Sooners to the Final Four five seasons into the job. Kruger is one of just two head coaches (also Rick Pitino with Kentucky and Louisville) to inherit two teams coming off a sub-.500 year and take both to the Final Four within the first five seasons as head coach.

• Wednesday's matchup is already the third game this season where Kruger is facing a team he previously coached. Oklahoma played Pittsburg State in an exhibition contest on Nov. 1 (Kruger was an assistant for the 1976-77 season) and opened the regular season at UTRGV on Nov. 9. UTRGV was previously named Pan American, where Kruger began his head coaching career in 1982.

• OU is 8-9 against current SEC teams in the Kruger era, including 6-5 against schools which were SEC members at the time of competition.

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