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Oklahoma Sooners Basketball: OU handles UTRGV, 91-72

Oklahoma heads into the New Year with a solid resume and some much needed momentum.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Oklahoma vs. West Virginia Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma Sooners wrapped up the decade on a fiery note by handing UT-Rio Grande Valley a 91-72 beatdown. With the victory, OU improves to 9-3 on the season (5-0 at home) and heads into Big 12 play on a two-game winning streak.

Junior forward Brady Manek led the Sooners in scoring on Monday night with a career-high 29 points (4-8 from three) and added seven rebounds, a block and an assist.

Lon Kruger announced before the game that senior forward Kristian Doolittle — Oklahoma’s scoring and rebounds leader — would be unavailable tonight for a “conflict of team interests.” That ruling opened the door for redshirt junior Kur Kuath to enter the starting lineup, and he made his presence felt from the jump.

On the night, Kuath stuffed the stat sheet with a season-high 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. For all intents and purposes, that amount of production is on par with what Oklahoma misses when Doolittle is out of the equation, so that’s a promising sign knowing the Sooners will welcome back its leader to open conference play.

Oklahoma played like it was the better team from the tip, jumping out to an early 12-point lead before the Vaqueros fought back to make it a little more competitive for a stretch. That valiant effort from the visitors didn’t last, however, as the Sooners turned up the energy on both ends of the court to close the first half with an 18-point lead — the largest of the season.

In the second half, OU picked up where it left off, exerting its dominance over an overmatched UTRGV squad. Manek, Kuath and company helped the Sooners put together a rare complete game that bodes well for the future against stout Big 12 competition.

Up next, Oklahoma opens Big 12 play at home against Kansas State (7-5) on Saturday, Jan. 4. The Sooners lost both meetings versus the Wildcats last season by a combined 28 points, but through each team’s non-conference schedule this year, OU appears to have a slight advantage when it comes to depth and experience. Tip-off is set for 12 p.m. CT and will be streamed live on ESPN+.

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