The Oklahoma Sooners came to the Bahamas as underdogs against the Florida Gators, but OU came out on top, 65-60, behind some stellar defense and veteran leadership, improving the team’s record to 4-0. The Sooners will face the winner of Wisconsin-Stanford on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. CT on either ESPN or ESPN2.
BOOM! #Sooners grind out a win over the Gators and advance to the semifinals.— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_MBBall) November 21, 2018
Oklahoma will face the Stanford-Wisconsin leader on Thanksgiving at 12:30 p.m. CT. #YouBelongHere pic.twitter.com/xTd49UT3u3
Christian James led OU in scoring for the third time in four games, as the senior went 6-15 from the field and 3-7 from three-point range. Fellow seniors Jamuni McNeace and Rashard Odomes also reached double figures, with each scoring 11 on 5-8 and 5-7 shooting, respectively. McNeace also played fantastic interior defense against Florida’s front line, recording four blocks in the process.
Point guard Aaron Calixte got himself into some foul trouble early in this one, resulting in a lot of playing time for freshman Jamal Bieniemy. In 25 minutes of action, Bieniemy didn’t light up the shot chart (2-10 from the field) but his steady presence and solid defense allowed OU to hold keep this one relatively under control while the grad transfer Calixte was forced to sit. When Calixte was able to return with 6:43 left in the game, he made his presence felt. After driving to the lane and giving OU a seven-point lead, he widened the gap on the very next offensive possession with a beautiful alley-oop to Brady Manek.
Oklahoma was able to sustain the lead (ranging from 1-9 points from the 15:14 mark on) for the majority of the second half, but Florida had possession of the ball trailing 63-60 with 14.6 seconds remaining in the game. However, Odomes came up big with some great defense as KeVaughn Allen drove to the lane, and Calixte sealed the deal with a pair of free throws shortly thereafter.
- Experience pays off - Program veterans Christian James, Jamuni McNeace and Rashard Odomes were all keys to this huge W. James didn’t have a great day from the field, but many of his makes were always timely. McNeace was a physical force on both ends and kept this team in a good position when his teammates’ shots weren’t falling. Odomes had his first double-figure scoring game of the young season as he provided a spark off the bench. He was able to get to the bucket on multiple occasions and brought a ton of energy.
- Defense clamps down - Other than some perimeter breakdowns that led to open threes, Oklahoma’s defense was strong for the majority of the game. The length and athleticism were readily apparent, but the team’s energy and toughness on that end are so much better than was the case a year ago. Florida finished the day shooting 39 percent from the field and — other than the aforementioned three-point opportunities — rarely had great looks.
- Manek continues physical play - Larry from the Prairie didn’t do much with his shot today, but he did record double-digit rebounds for the fourth time in as many games. With roughly 20 extra lbs. of weight on that body, the days of him being pushed around in the paint appear to be a distant memory.
Oklahoma will play the winner of the afternoon game between Stanford and No. 25 Wisconsin. Entering the tournament, the Badgers were No. 14 in the KenPom rankings, while Stanford sat at No. 85.
UPDATE: OU will play Wisconsin (62-46 over Stanford) on ESPN.