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Oklahoma Sooners Basketball: Oklahoma buries Ole Miss, 95-72, advances to Round of 32

OU advances to the Round of 32 after outclassing the Rebels in a wire-to-wire victory.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Mississippi vs Oklahoma Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The 9th-seeded Oklahoma Sooners blitzed 8th-seeded Ole Miss from start to finish, winning 95-72 in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. It’s OU’s first win in the Big Dance since reaching the Final Four three seasons ago.

This was arguably Oklahoma’s most complete performance of the season. Not only did four players account for 77 points, there really were no dry spells throughout the contest. The defensive intensity was present from the tip, and even when Ole Miss finally found an offensive rhythm in the second half, the Rebels were simply unable to gain any significant ground on the near-flawless Sooners.

Rashard Odomes and Christian James both scored 20 points, but the player of the game honor has to go to Kristian Doolittle. The junior put forth one of the best performances of his career, scoring 19 points, recording 14 rebounds and logging five assists. Ole Miss had absolutely no answer for him every time he had the ball anywhere near the basket, as evidenced by this incredible play in the second half.

Lon Kruger couldn’t have scripted a better start to this one. For a team that has notoriously started games excruciatingly slow this season, Oklahoma wasted zero time settling in on both ends of the court. Before Ole Miss knew what hit it, the Sooners raced out to a quick 12-0 lead.

Christian James was one of the seniors expected to play a key role in whether the Sooners advanced to the Round of 32 or saw their run end on Friday. In what could have been his final game in an Oklahoma uniform, James was completely dialed in to at the start, hitting his first three attempts from beyond the arc. He ended up going 7-12 from the field.

If there was a singular story in the first half, it was Rashard Odomes, another senior who the team was counting on to come up with a big performance. Not only did he show up in Columbia, he showed out. He led the team in scoring through the first 20 minutes with 14 points on 6-7 shooting, including two three-point plays. The senior ended the day 8-10 from the field.

Going into halftime, the Sooners led the Rebels 50-33. Oklahoma shot a staggering 57.6% from the field, outscored Ole Miss 24-10 in the paint, and only turned the ball over once as opposed to nine giveaways from Mississippi.

In the second half, Ole Miss came out with a heightened sense of urgency, and closed the gap to as close as 12, but the Sooners had an answer for everything the Rebels threw their way. Things went back and forth for a stretch until the game was bogged down quite a bit with an exodus of foul calls on both sides. Ole Miss was particularly affected by foul trouble due to a lack of quality depth compared to Oklahoma. As a result, the Sooners were 21-25 from the free throw line compared to the Rebels’ 3-4 showing at the charity stripe.

Up next, Oklahoma will play the winner of No. 1 seeded Virginia and No. 16 seed Gardner Webb on Sunday, with time and broadcast info still to be determined.

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