November 1 | 7 p.m. | Norman
THURSDAY’S GAME BASICS
It’s basketball time in Oklahoma. The Sooners hit the Lloyd Noble Center floor for their only official exhibition game of the 2018 preseason on Thursday against Pittsburg State at 7 p.m. CT. The exhibition contest gives many fans their first glimpse at the 2018-19 squad with all tickets for the game priced at only $5.
ON THE AIR
Thursday’s exhibition contest will air on the Sooner Radio Network (KRXO 107.7 FM “The Franchise” in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa) with Toby Rowland and Kevin Henry announcing. The game will be streamed online by SoonerSports.TV with Chad McKee, Bryndon Manzer and Jessica Coody calling the action.
All tickets for the game are just $5. Tickets are available at the OU Athletics Ticket Office (800-456-4668) and online here. Lloyd Noble Center’s north and east ticket windows will open at 5:30 p.m. on Thurssday. OU students will be admitted free to the game with a valid school I.D.
IN THE BONUS
• The OU Bookstore is offering season ticket holders an opportunity to save on Sooner gear heading into the holiday season. Season ticket holders will receive a coupon for up to 30% off of a purchase. Between OU’s first three games (Pittsburg State on Nov. 1, Wofford on Nov. 18 and North Texas on Nov. 27), fans can build up their discount, starting with 10% off for attending one game, 20% off for attending two games and 30% off for attending all three. Coupons will be sent in early December.
• OU students with student season tickets can pick up their free BoomSquad t-shirt upon entering the north student entrance.
• Fans are encouraged to #ArriveSooner to avoid delays into the gates with enhanced screenings. For more gameday tips at Lloyd Noble Center, visit the LNC’s information page.
• Beer will not be offered at Thursday’s exhibition, but sales are expected to begin at Lloyd Noble Center beginning with the women’s basketball season opener on Nov. 9.
• The Sooners will show off the oldest roster in the Big 12, with an average roster age of 21.1 years old. Oklahoma was one of the youngest teams in the league the past two seasons, but now features eight seniors/graduates (only one senior in 2017-18).
• Thursday’s exhibition will be the Crimson and Cream debut for four Sooner newcomers. Graduate transfer guards Aaron Calixte and Miles Reynolds aim to make an immediate impact for the Sooners in their one and only season at Oklahoma. Calixte comets to Norman from Maine where he accumulated over 1,100 points in 97 games with the Black Bears. Reynolds joins OU from Pacific and brings 2017-18 averages of 13.3 points and 2.8 assists. The grad transfers are joined on the OU roster by JUCO transfer big man Kur Kuath and freshman guard Jamal Bieniemy. A lengthy shot-blocker, Kuath spent his last two seasons at Salt Lake Community College, accumulating 117 blocks in 33 games last season while averaging 10.8 points and 7.2 rebounds. A combo guard out of Katy, Texas, Bieniemy put together averages of 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists in his senior year of high school.
• Following his collegiate career at Kansas State and one year of professional play overseas, Lon Kruger began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Pittsburg State in 1976. Kruger was on the Gorillas’ coaching staff for one season, helping lead PSU to a 15-12 record. At the conclusion of his lone season in Pittsburg, Kruger returned to Kansas State as an assistant coach. He remained an assistant at K-State until 1982, when he received his first head coaching position at UT-Pan American (now known as UTRGV). The Sooners open the regular season at UTRGV on Nov. 9.
Christian James is one of eight seniors/graduates on the OU roster.
THE OPPONENT: PITTSBURG STATE
• Pittsburg State is a member of NCAA Division II and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. The Gorillas are coming off of a 17-13 season (9-10 in conference play).
• The Gorillas are coached by Kim Anderson, who is beginning his second season in Pittsburg. From 2014 to 2017, Anderson was the head coach at Missouri. Anderson’s Tigers faced Oklahoma in Norman in 2014 as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge with the Sooners winning, 82-63.
• Last season’s Sooner squad was one of the youngest teams in both the Big 12 and the country. With nine freshmen and sophomores and only one senior, Oklahoma was the second least-experienced team in the conference, according to KenPom.com. The analytics website’s formula, based on age and collegiate playing experience, ranked the Sooners 304 out of 351 Division I teams in experience. It will be a different story for Oklahoma this season, as its roster now features eight seniors or graduate students (six scholarship, two walk-ons) and only one scholarship freshman. Through the combination of time and targeting experienced transfers in recruiting, the Sooners now boast the most seniors and graduates of any team in the Big 12. With seven more seniors/graduates than 2017-18, Oklahoma owns the largest-known increase of seniors in NCAA Division I this season. The Sooners’ average age on opening night in 2017 was 19.9. Heading into Nov. 9’s season opener at UTRGV, the Oklahoma roster will be an average age of 21.1 and the oldest in the Big 12.
• Christian James, Rashard Odomes and Jamuni McNeace form the core group of OU seniors, as all three have spent at least three years in the Sooners’ program. The trio combines for 266 games of collegiate experience and 105 starts. Both James and Odomes have been consistent members of OU’s starting lineup over the past two seasons, while McNeace continued to see his role expanded as the 2017-18 season progressed. James’ 11.9 points per game last season are the most among returning players while McNeace led Sooner returners in rebounds (5.4) and blocked shots (1.4). With a 7-foot-4 wingspan and one of the most athletic builds on the team, McNeace is gearing towards having a breakout senior season as the Sooners’ starting center.
• Oklahoma also installed significant experience and leadership into its roster through the addition of two graduate transfer guards: Aaron Calixte and Miles Reynolds. An experienced point guard from the University of Maine, Calixte brings career averages of 11.6 points and 3.0 assists. With 1,125 career points to his name, Calixte averaged 16.9 points per game and shot 61-of-158 (.386) from 3-point range in 2017-18. Calixte faces the challenge of filling OU’s point guard role, left open by Trae Young’s top-five selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, but will rely on his own experience at the position along with veteran players surrounding him.
• Reynolds joins the Sooners after two seasons at Pacific, where he scored 13.3 points a game last season. The guard has experience at both the point guard position and playing off the ball and aims to lend a veteran voice to the court and locker room. In the team’s annual player poll, Reynolds’ teammates voted him the best vocal leader and one of OU’s best leaders by example.
UP NEXT: UTRGV
• The Sooners open the regular season on the road for just the second time in the last 35 years when they travel to Edinburg, Texas, to face UTRGV on Friday, Nov. 9. The 7:30 p.m. CT contest will air on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
• Although Oklahoma has never faced UTRGV under its current name, the Sooners were 4-0 against the University of Texas-Pan American, which was consolidated into UTRGV in 2015.
• OU is 6-2 all-time against current members of the Western Athletic Conference, with its only two losses coming to Seattle during the 1960s.
• Oklahoma is 7-0 in season openers under Kruger. Additonally, the Sooners have won 15 consecutive season openers dating back to the 2003-04 season.
• The return to the Rio Grande Valley will be especially meaningful for OU head coach Lon Kruger, who began his head coaching career at Texas-Pan American in 1982. Kruger inherited a squad that was 5-20 in the year prior to his arrival and helped guide the Broncs to a 20-8 (.714) record in his fourth season (1985-86) at the UTPA helm. The .714 winning percentage by the 1985-86 team is the highest in the program’s last 38 years. In his four seasons at Pan American, Kruger accumulated a 52-59 (.468) record before taking a job at his alma mater, Kansas State, in 1986. Kruger remains a supporter of the school. He and his wife, Barbara, made the first six-figure donation in department history and remain active boosters of UTRGV Athletics. During OU’s trip to Edinburg, UTRGV will induct Kruger into its Athletics Hall of Fame and Hall of Honor.
• After facing the Vaqueros, the Sooners continue their road trip by heading to San Antonio to face UTSA on Monday, Nov. 12. The 2018-19 campaign marks just the second time since 1939 and the first since 1977 that the Sooners open the regular season with two true road games. The Vaqueros and Roadrunners are coached by a pair of former OU assistants in Lew Hill (UTRGV) and Steve Henson (UTSA), who took their head coaching positions following Oklahoma’s run to the 2016 Final Four.