Crimsons Clash in Big 12/SEC Challenge
SATURDAY'S GAME BASICS
In the middle of a tight conference title chase, the Sooners and the rest of the Big 12 will take a break from league play to participate in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. No. 12/11 Oklahoma (15-4, 5-3 Big 12) aims to keep the momentum going after a big win over No. 5 Kansas when it travels to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama (13-7, 5-3 SEC). The Sooners are 3-1 in previous Big 12/SEC Challenge matchups and 1-0 when playing true road games in the league-vs-league series.
Saturday’s nationally televised matchup will feature a point guard battle between OU’s Trae Young and Alabama’s Collin Sexton – both of which are considered to be two of the best young guards in the nation.
ON THE AIR
Saturday’s matchup will tip at 1:15 p.m. CT and air on the Sooner Radio Network (KRXO 107.7 FM “The Franchise” in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa) with Toby Rowland and Kevin Henry announcing. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN with Rich Hollenberg, Fran Fraschilla and Laura Rutledge calling the action.
• Freshman guard Trae Young leads the country in both scoring (30.3) and assists (9.6). His scoring and distributing leads the nation’s second-highest-scoring offense, as Oklahoma is producing 91.2 points per game. Saturday’s non-conference contest pits Young and the Sooners against another talented freshman guard in Alabama’s Collin Sexton. The Tide is coached by a former collegiate point guard in Avery Johnson. On Dec. 22, Young tied an NCAA record for assists in a game with 22 against Northwestern State. Young’s single-game assists record is shared with three other players - including Johnson, who accomplished the feat in 1988 against Texas Southern.
• With a combined scoring average of 41.6 points per game, Young (30.3) and freshman forward Brady Manek (11.3) comprise the highest-scoring freshman tandem in the country. They own a comfortable margin over the runner-up freshman duo of Duke’s Marvin Bagley III (21.6) and Gary Trent Jr. (14.7).
• Oklahoma coaches and staff will be wearing Nike Metcon 3 sneakers on the sidelines Saturday, supporting Suits And Sneakers Week - a Coaches vs. Cancer initiative that benefits the American Cancer Society. The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) is celebrating its 25th anniversary of the Coaches vs. Cancer initiative. OU head coach Lon Kruger is an active participant in Coaches vs. Cancer activities, including founding the Coaches vs. Cancer Las Vegas Golf Classic, which is now in its 11th year.
The non-conference contest promises an exciting point guard matchup between Trae Young and Alabama's Collin Sexton.
SERIES HISTORY VS. ALABAMA
• Oklahoma and Alabama have met seven previous times with OU holding a 5-2 advantage in the all-time series (1-1 in Tuscaloosa). The Sooners and Tide have met once previously during the Lon Kruger era with OU capturing an 82-73 win to open the 2013 series in Dallas, Texas.
• OU is 8-8 against current SEC teams in the Lon Kruger era, including 6-4 against schools which were SEC members at the time of competition. Oklahoma is 3-1 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge with previous wins over LSU, Missouri and Texas A&M and a loss to Florida.
OKLAHOMA IN THE BIG 12/SEC CHALLENGE
• The Sooners and Crimson Tide will meet in the fifth edition of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Oklahoma is 3-1 in the mid-season event with previous wins over LSU, Missouri and Texas A&M while falling to Florida last season.
• In the previous four years of the event, the Big 12/SEC Challenge trophy has remained in the Big 12 office. The Big 12 won it the first three seasons and the leagues split the 10 games in 2017 (in case of a tie, the trophy stays with the conference that won it the previous season). Big 12 teams are 25-15 (.625) in the Big 12/SEC Challenge since it began and have posted a 53-35 (.603) record in the last two conference challenge series (vs. Pac-10, SEC) dating back to 2007.
LAST TIME OUT
• Oklahoma picked up its nation-leading fourth win over top 10 teams on Tuesday when it defeated No. 5 Kansas, 85-80, in Norman. The Sooners overcame a 10-point second-half deficit to top the Jayhawks.
• Freshman guard Trae Young led the Sooners with 26 points and nine assists in 40 minutes of action. Young was 7-of-9 from the floor and 2-of-3 from deep, while finishing 10-for-12 from the free throw line.
• The Sooners extended their home winning streak to 13 consecutive games with Tuesday night’s win. OU’s winning streak is its longest since winning 19 home contests from Jan. 17, 2015 to Feb. 8, 2016. OU is 10-0 at the LNC this season.
• Oklahoma has won four games against top-10 teams this season, which ties a school record. The Sooners also won four contests against opponents ranked in the top 10 at the time of competition in 2001-02 (OU’s fourth top-10 win came on March 21 that season).
• Tuesday’s win was the third time in the past six seasons that OU has defeated a top-10 Kansas squad inside the LNC.
• OU is 17-7 against AP ranked Big 12 teams at home during the Lon Kruger era. When both the Sooners and their opponent are ranked, Oklahoma is 13-1 at home under Kruger.
• The Sooners improved to 13-18 overall and 6-6 at home against AP top-10 teams in the Kruger era.
PLAY FAST, SCORE BUCKETS
• Oklahoma is off to a 15-4 start behind the second-highest-scoring offense in the nation. The Sooners average 91.2 points per game and have scored at least 90 points in 11 of their 19 games - including six games in triple digits. Oklahoma, who ranked 331 (of 351 teams) in assists per game last season (10.6), is 27th in the country with 17.8 assists per contest this year. The Sooners also rank 12th in made 3-point field goals per game with 10.9 treys.
• The Sooners aren’t just scoring in bunches - they’re playing fast. Oklahoma is sixth in the nation and first among major conferences in KenPom.com’s adjusted tempo rankings (possesions per 40 minutes adjusted to the opponenet) with 75.8. Oklahoma’s average possession is 13.9 seconds long, the fastest among major conferences and third-fastest overall.
• Oklahoma is 7-0 when shooting above 50 percent and 7-0 when it hands out at least 20 assists.
• Oklahoma has scored 45 or more points in 18 of its 38 halves this season and has scored at least 40 points before halftime in all but three contests.
• The Sooners have scored at least 100 points in six games – their most in a season since the 1992-93 season, when Oklahoma reached the century mark in nine games. Oklahoma’s six triple-digit games are the second-most in a season by an Big 12 team since the conference was formed in 1996. The 2001-02 Kansas squad (12 games) is the only team with more.
• OU scored over 80 points in its first 13 games, its longest streak of surpassing 80 points since doing so in 16 straight games in 1987-88. The 1988-89 “Billy Ball” squad scored 80 points in 20 straight games.
UP NEXT: BAYLOR
• Oklahoma resumes conference play with a home contest against Baylor on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2. OU owns a 44-14 record over the Bears, including a 22-5 advantage in Norman. Baylor swept the Sooners last season. Oklahoma is 6-3 this season against teams it lost to in 2016-17.
• The Sooners enter Tuesday’s matchup riding a 13-game home winning streak. The Sooners have not lost at home since Feb. 8, 2017. The streak is the longest for the Sooners since winning 19 home contests in a row from Jan. 17, 2015 to Feb. 8, 2016. Oklahoma is 10-0 at the LNC this season and is averaging 97.5 points per home game, winning its contests by an average of 18.3 points.
• OU's clash with Baylor is the Sooners' only remaining home game with tickets still available. Fans are encouraged to secure their seats now (for as low as $10) at SoonerSports,com/tickets, as only a few hundred tickets remain.