After topping Florida and falling to Wisconsin in its first two games in the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Oklahoma Sooners closed their trip to the Bahamas with a 65-64 win over the Dayton Flyers. The win improved OU’s record to 5-1 on the season.
Once again, Christian James was superb for the Sooners, scoring 21 points while going 8-15 from the field and 4-8 from deep. Jamuni McNeace, however, might be the x-factor for this team, and he did his part with his length and physicality down low. McNeace ended up with 16 points (7-11) to go along with eight rebounds and three blocks.
The unsung hero of the day was undoubtedly Miles Reynolds, who helped put this one away with consistency at the free-throw line. To close things out, Reynolds made 13 consecutive free throws as Dayton was attempting to make a late charge.
OU got out to a quick start in this one, holding a 26-12 edge with eight minutes to go in the first half. Unfortunately, Dayton’s zone did quite a number on the Sooners, rendering OU inept on the offensive end late in the first and early in the second. The Sooners would eventually swing the momentum with its defensive play, as they made a concerted effort to stick with their men on the perimeter as opposed to helping on penetration. James then began to heat up a bit after going quiet for a good stretch, hitting back-to-back threes to give OU a bit of separation.
OU kept things at arm’s length from that point on, ending the Battle 4 Atlantis on a positive note. Considering the expectations heading into the season, the Sooners and their fans have to be pretty satisfied with the overall showing in the Bahamas. If you would’ve told me prior to this week that the team would pick up a pair of wins over Florida and Dayton, I would have been more than content.
This team is far from a polished product at the moment, but these guys have been able to overcome many of their shortcomings with defensive effort, offensive chemistry and veteran leadership. After the 2017-18 season, it’s a sight for sore eyes. Also, it’s not like this team is devoid of talent or depth. James is legitimately an elite scorer as a senior, McNeace might be one of the most underrated big men in the country, and this team has multiple bench players who are capable of making a huge impact on any given day. The group isn’t short on size of athleticism, either, so there’s plenty of reason for optimism.