Sooners Host Wichita State in OKC
SATURDAY'S GAME BASICS
Off to its third 7-1 start in the last four seasons, Oklahoma (7-1, 0-0 Big 12) looks to continue its early success as it works through a challenging non-conference slate. Next up for the Sooners is a Saturday showdown with the Shockers of Wichita State (4-3, 0-0 AAC) as the two teams face off for the third straight season in a downtown arena. The road team has won the previous two meetings – a trend the Sooners will need to snap in order to secure their fourth 8-1 start under Lon Kruger.
The Sooners are taking their home show 20 miles up I-35 as they host WSU in Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
ON THE AIR
Saturday’s matchup will air on the Sooner Radio Network (107.7 FM The Franchise in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa; Tune In Radio App) with Toby Rowland and Kevin Henry announcing. Richard Cross and Tim Welsh will call the action on ESPNU. Fans with proper cable verification can also stream the game on the Watch ESPN App.
Tickets start at $19 and are available at the OU Athletics Ticket Office (800-456-4668) and online here. The Chesapeake Energy Arena box office will open at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.
• The Sooners have had at least three players score in double figures in each of their seven wins, yet they only have one player (Christian James at 19.9 points per game) averaging over 10 points. Most nights the Sooner scoring is by committee and whoever has the hot hand. Seven different OU players have reached double digits at least once this season and five Sooners have at least three games of 10-or-more points.
• The Sooners expect to see another big game from sophomore forward Brady Manek after he broke out of a shooting slump in Tuesday’s win against Notre Dame. Entering the Notre Dame game shooting 2-of-14 from 3-point range in his previous four games, Manek erupted for 17 points and made 5-of-8 long balls (started the game 5-of-5 from 3) against the Irish. In his two seasons with the Sooners, OU is 16-4 when Manek scores in double figures and 8-0 when he hit four or more 3-pointers. He scored 21 points with five 3-pointers in last season’s matchup against Wichita State.
• Oklahoma owns a 13-6 record when playing at Chesapeake Energy Arena and is 4-1 in the Lon Kruger era. Under Kruger, the Sooners have won two All-College Classic games at ‘The Peake’ (2012 vs. Texas A&M, 2011 vs. Houston) and won first and second round 2016 NCAA Tournament games against CSU-Bakersfield and VCU. OU’s only OKC loss in the Kruger era came against Wichita State in 2016.
Brady Manek scored 21 points in last season's meeting with Wichita State.
SERIES HISTORY: WICHITA STATE
• Oklahoma owns a 5-2 all-time record agaisnt the Shockers. The Sooners are 1-1 when facing Wichita State at home, with WSU winning the 2016 meeting (also played in Oklahoma City). Saturday marks the third straight season the two programs have met. Before meeting the Shockers in Oklahoma City in 2016, the schools had gone over 40 years without facing each other.
• In last season’s meeting, played at downtown Wichita’s INTRUST Bank Arena, the Sooners topped then-No. 3 Wichita State, 91-83. Brady Manek scored a then-career-high of 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting (5-of-13 from 3-point range).
• In his previous two games against Wichita State, Christian James averaged 14.0 points and 6.5 rebounds.
• OU is 5-2 against current members of the American Athletic Conference under Lon Kruger.
RECAPPING OU'S WIN OVER NOTRE DAME
• Playing its first game at historic Madison Square Garden since 2009, Oklahoma (7-1, 0-0 Big 12) fought past Notre Dame (6-2, 0-0 ACC) in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday. OU’s 85-80 win came in its first-ever meeting against the Irish and its fourth straight victory at Madison Square Garden.
• Senior guard Christian James produced a career performance on the big stage of MSG, totaling 25 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double. James scored 16 of his points after halftime and closed the game with OU’s final nine points. His outing was just the sixth 25-point, 10-rebound game by a Sooner guard in the Big 12 era.
• Graduate guard Aaron Calixte went a perfect 5-for-5 from the field to score 12 points while dishing out four assists. He’s just the third Sooner in the Kruger era to shoot 100 percent on at least five attempts.
• Sophomore forward Brady Manek sank his first five 3-point attempts (finished 5-of-8) en route to 17 points to go with eight rebounds.
• As a team, Oklahoma shot a season-high 51.7 percent from behind the arc, shooting 15-of-29. It was just the third time during the Big 12 era that the Sooners have made 15 or more 3-pointers on a 50 percent (or better) clip when playing away from home.
• Junior forward Matt Freeman led the bench production with 11 points, sinking three 3-pointers on six attempts.
• The Sooners’ win came without starting center Jamuni McNeace, who missed the game due to an ankle injury.
• Oklahoma owns a 13-6 record when playing at Chesapeake Energy Arena and is 4-1 in the Kruger era. The Sooners are 10-4 when playing at NBA arenas under Kruger.
• Today’s game against Wichita State will be considered an Oklahoma home game for RPI/NET purposes.
• Oklahoma is off to its fourth start of 7-1 (or better) during Kruger’s eight seasons as head coach (also third in the last four seasons). A win would give OU its fourth 8-1 start under Kruger.
• Saturday’s matchup is only the ninth game of the season, but will already be Oklahoma’s seventh game away from Lloyd Noble Center. Ten of OU’s first 13 games this season are being played outside of Norman.
• The Sooners have won five games on the road or on neutral sites. No other Big 12 team has more than three wins away from home.
• With wins away from home over the likes of Florida, Dayton and Notre Dame, Oklahoma’s strength of schedule and success away from Lloyd Noble Center has caught the attention of various evaluation formulas and rankings. The Sooners are No. 16 in the NCAA’s new NET Ranking (replaces the RPI), No. 10 in ESPN’s Strength of Record and No. 2 in CBS Sports’ RPI. As of the latest round of poll voting (before the Notre Dame game), Oklahoma received one vote in the AP Top 25 poll.
• Senior guard Christian James leads the Big 12 scoring race with 19.9 points per game. He has scored at least 18 points in all but two games this season.
• Sometimes a player’s value is made more evident when they’re not playing. In OU’s first seven games, the Sooners allowed only 24.9 points in the paint by their opponents. In Oklahoma’s win against Notre Dame, the Sooners were without starting center Jamuni McNeace, resulting in 46 paint points by the Irish.
• After swatting no shots in the first three games of the season, senior center McNeace has totaled 14 blocked shots over his last four games. McNeace is ranked fifth in the Big 12 with an average of 2.1 rejections per game.
• Sophomore forward Brady Manek ranks third in the Big 12 in rebounding with 9.0 boards per game. Manek averaged only 5.2 rebounds last season, but put on 20 pounds over the offseason to improve his physical presence in the paint. He has put together three double-doubles this season (had none his freshman year).
• OU features one of the oldest rosters in both the Big 12 and the country (more about that on page 4...). Oklahoma seniors and graduates have scored 68 percent of OU’s points this season.
• A prolific free throw shooter, Miles Reynolds is shooting his foul shots at a .900 clip (36-of-40) and leads the Big 12 in free throw percentage (minimum of 30 attempts).
• Freshman guard Jamal Bieniemy has picked up 13 steals in his first eight games. His 1.6 steals per game are 11th-most in the Big 12 (fourth among freshman).
• Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger boasts a 147-92 record during his eight seasons in Norman. Kruger is three wins away from becoming just the fifth head coach to win 150 games at Oklahoma. He would join Hugh McDermott (185), Bruce Drake (200), Kelvin Sampson (279) and Billy Tubbs (333).
ZERO HAS BEEN THE HERO
• Senior guard Christian James has been the Sooners’ go-to scorer through the early weeks of the season. James entered the season as Oklahoma’s top returning scorer (averaged 11.9 points per game in 2017-18) and has shown improvement in nearly all assetts of his game. Through eight games, James has scored at least 18 points in all but two contests – including four games of reaching 20 points.
• With an average of 19.9 points per game, James has an early lead in the Big 12 scoring race. Seeing a Sooner on top of the conference’s scoring list is nothing new for Oklahoma, as an OU
player has led the Big 12 in scoring in three of the previous four seasons (Trae Young in 2017-18; Buddy Hield in 2015-16 and 2014-15).
• While playing in Battle 4 Atlants, James averaged 19.0 points (shooting .500), 4.7 rebounds and went 11-of-23 (.478) from 3-point range to help lead OU to a 2-1 showing. His 57 total points at Battle 4 Atlantis were the second most among participating players and aided him in being named to the event’s all-tournament team.
IN DEFENSE OF CHANGING STYLES
• For the second straight season, Oklahoma is off to a 7-1 start. Although their record matches last season’s start, the Sooners have completely shifted their style of play from 2017-18 to 2018-19. Head coach Lon Kruger has shown the flexibility to adjust his style of play to the personnel on his roster. Last season, the Sooners played a fast-tempo, high-scoring style through national rookie of the year Trae Young. As the first player to lead the country in scoring and assists, Young drove the Sooners offense to score 84.9 points per game – the fifth most of any team last season and the eighth most in program history. The Sooners’ 2017-18 tempo was the second fastest among major-conference teams with an average possession of only 14.0 seconds. Due to the speed of play and emphasis on free-flowing offense, the Sooners gave up an average of 81.7 points per game on the defensive end.
• This season, the Sooners are focusing much more on the defensive end – using their athleticism and length to force opponents deep into the shot clock and showing improvement in contesting shots. OU opponents are averaging 67.0 points per game and shooting 37.8 percent from the field (ranks third in the Big 12). The Sooners boast the fifth-best defensive 2-point percentage as their opponents are shooting just 39.4 percent inside the arc.
• Oklahoma’s defense has been especially disruptive late in the game. In OU’s seven wins, its opponents are shooting a combined 32.0 percent from the field and 22.5 percent from 3-point range during the final 15 minutes of the game.
• Oklahoma held Dayton to 54 points on Nov. 23 and North Texas to 57 points on Nov. 27, marking the first time OU has held its opponent under 60 points in consecutive games since the 2014-15 season.
• The Sooners have held their opponents to 60 or fewer points in three of four games from Nov. 21-27 – the first time Oklahoma has accomplished that feat since the 2007-08 season.
• OU opponents have shot under 32 percent in four of OU’s eight games this season.
UP NEXT: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
• Oklahoma will play another off-campus game when it travels to Tulsa, facing Southern California at BOK Center on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. CT on ESPNU. OU is 7-5 all-time against the Trojans, most recently defeating USC, 85-83, last season at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.
• The Sooners are 5-0 against Pac-12 opponents during the Lon Kruger era. Oklahoma is 119-69 all-time against current members of the Pac-12.
• The Sooners and Trojans will face off in Oklahoma’s third game in Tulsa under Kruger, previously facing the University of Tulsa (2014) and Oral Roberts (2013) in on-campus contests. Oklahoma will be making its second appearance at BOK Center, previously facing Tulsa in 2008 shortly after the building opened.