The Sooners rode a hot shooting performance to victory over the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles in Norman tonight, led by Christian James’s 17 points. Khadeem Lattin, James and Kristian Doolittle all finished with a team-high 4 rebounds.
The Sooners slowed their scoring pace midway through the first half, having led by as many as 10 points in the early stages. Senior Eagles guard Jalen Bradley strung together a three-pointer and layup in quick succession to pull ORU within five, 16-11, and a Kris Martin three-pointer at the 9-minute mark made it 20-19 Sooners. But Oklahoma rattled off the game’s next 9 points, and went on a 16-2 run, to pull away in a game that was never again in doubt.
OU hit almost half of its 23 three-point attempts on the night, spreading the wealth as James, Doolittle, Jordan Woodard, Jordan Shepherd and Matt Freeman all hit a triple in the opening half. Freeman, who started the last two OU contests, was replaced in the lineup by Dante Buford tonight as Lon Kruger continued to mix and match his personnel. But Buford ended up playing just 11 minutes, with no points and three rebounds.
The Golden Eagles didn’t prove much of a threat for the Sooners tonight. ORU fell to a not-ideal 1-8 with the loss, having dropped contests to such hardwood powerhouses as Loyola Chicago, Montana and Oakland already this year. But ORU pushed the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing on Saturday, losing by just 4 points, and any struggle would have been a tough setback for a Sooners squad that lost to Wisconsin over the weekend.
Instead, the Sooners punched ORU in the mouth and, when it looked like the Eagles might be clawing back into the game, pulled away decisively.
Kruger was therefore able to use most of his roster tonight, especially the second half. Even the seldom-used Marshall Thorpe, C.J. Cole and Richard Anderson saw minutes, and Jordan Shepherd got a season-high 15.
The Sooners also improved their performance from the free throw line in the game, hitting 15 of 16 foul shots. OU turned the ball over 13 times, showing slight improvement in that department as well.
Oral Roberts posted a solid shooting performance, hitting 42% of its threes, but was undone by a 50% free-throw percentage and 20 turnovers. OU turned those turnovers into 30 points.
ORU also got out-rebounded 37-29 and didn’t score a single fast-break point. The Golden Eagles will have to play their very best to compete with any major-conference foe this season.
The win moves Oklahoma to 6-2 on the young campaign. The Sooners now enter a fun stretch, taking a few days off before taking the short drive to Oklahoma City for a 3 p.m. game against Wichita State on Saturday. OU’s performance in the next several games, against Wichita, Memphis and Auburn, may offer vital clues as to how this team will fare heading into Big 12 play.