December 18 | 8 p.m. | Norman
TUESDAY’S GAME BASICS
Oklahoma (9-1, 0-0 Big 12) is back home on Tuesday for its first game at Lloyd Noble Center in three weeks when it hosts Creighton (7-3, 0-0 Big East) in a Big 12 vs. Big East showdown. The matchup pits Oklahoma’s dominant defense against one of the country’s top offenses. The Sooners are limiting opponents to 36.2 percent shooting (sixth best in the country) while the Bluejays are shooting 51.0 percent from the field and a nation-leading 44.8 percent from behind the 3-point arc. KenPom.com’s efficiency ratings rank the Sooners as the 15th best defense in college basketball and Creighton as the 15th best offense.
ON THE AIR
Tuesday’s matchup will tip at 8 p.m. CT and air on the Sooner Radio Network (107.7 FM The Franchise in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa; Tune In Radio App) with Toby Rowland and Kevin Henry announcing. Anish Shroff and Bryndon Manzer will call the action on ESPNU. Fans with proper cable verification can also stream the game on the Watch ESPN App.
Tickets are available starting at just $10 at the OU Athletics Ticket Office (800-456-4668) and online here. Lloyd Noble Center’s north and east ticket windows will open at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
OU students will be admitted free to the game with a valid school I.D.
OU Athletics is also offering a special “student for a game” ticket deal, helping fill in the Boom Squad section while OU students are out of town on winter break. Fans will receive a general admission ticket for the student section (LN3-LN6) along with an OU t-shirt for just $15. The t-shirt can be picked up at the student section entrance on the day of the game. To order the special offer, visit SoonerSports.com/PromoCode and enter the code STUDENT
IN THE BONUS
• Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray became the seventh Sooner to win the Heisman Trophy this past weekend in New York City. Fans will be able to claim an exclusive “Kyler Knows” poster, commemorating his recent enshrinement into Oklahoma and college football history. The poster will be available at both games outside of the Sooner Jr. Kids Zone on the south end of the top concourse.
• Fans will also be able to take their photo with Murray’s Heisman Trophy outside of the Kids Zone on the south upper concourse. The trophy will be on display from the time doors open (6:30) through halftime.
• One lucky fan at both the Creighton and UConn games will walk away with a pair of tickets to the upcoming Orange Bowl, where No. 4 Oklahoma faces No. 1 Alabama in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff in Miami. Fans can sign up for their chance to win with an OU tickets representative at the top of section E2. Two lucky fans from those who sign up will be randomly chosen to compete in a free throw contest.
• The Sooner Jr. Kids Zone, located on the south side of the top concourse, will host a variety of holiday-themed activities for young OU fans in attendance. The area will include a photobooth with Santa Claus, a “Boomer on a Shelf” stuffed animal giveaway and an ornament making station.
• Fans are encouraged to #ArriveSooner to avoid delays into the gates with enhanced screenings. OU’s clear bag policy will also be in efffect. For more gameday tips at Lloyd Noble Center, visit the LNC’s information page.
• Senior guard Christian James enters Tuesday’s matchup with three straight double-doubles. James failed to produce a double-double in his first 104 collegiate games, but has totalled at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in every game since. In Oklahoma’s win against USC, James became just the second OU guard since at least 1996 to record 15 points and 15 rebounds.
• Graduate guard Miles Reynolds has scored at least 14 points in four of his last five games and is averaging 15.4 points during that stretch. Reynolds is coming off of a 20-point performance against USC – the most he’s scored since joining the Sooners. He has been a member of the starting lineup in the past three games while center Jamuni McNeace was working through an ankle injury.
• Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger boasts a 149-92 record during his eight seasons in Norman. Kruger is one win away from becoming just the fifth head coach to win 150 games at Oklahoma, joining Hugh McDermott (185), Bruce Drake (200), Kelvin Sampson (279) and Billy Tubbs (333).
Lon Kruger is one win away from his 150th victory at Oklahoma.
SERIES HISTORY: CREIGHTON
• The Sooners own a 3-2 all-time series lead and won the only previous matchup in Norman on Dec. 19, 2015. In its 87-74 win, Oklahoma was led by 33 points by Buddy Hield, who went on to be named the national player of the year that season. Christian James, Jamuni McNeace and Rashard Odomes (all freshman at the time) combined for nine minutes and were all held scoreless.
• The Sooners are 4-2 against current BIG EAST opponents during the Lon Kruger era, and has won three of its last four games against the conference. Oklahoma is 14-15 all-time against current members of the BIG EAST.
• The Big 12 and BIG EAST Conferences recently announced the creation of a non-conference scheduling series for four seasons, beginning in 2019-20 and continuing through 2022-23. Ten games between the two leagues will be played each season during the month of December. Oklahoma’s return game to Creighton next season will be a part of the inaugural year of the arrangement. The complete slate for the first year will be announced in spring 2019.
RECAPPING OU’S WIN OVER USC
• Oklahoma improved to 9-1 over the weekend with an 80-47 win over USC at BOK Center in Tulsa.
• The Sooners were led by graduate guard Miles Reynolds, who scored a season-best 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting in his performance since joining Oklahoma.
• Senior guard Christian James picked up his third straight double-double, producing 16 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. James had no career double-doubles in the first 104 games of his collegiate career. James’ performance marked just the second time since at least 1996 that an OU guard had a 15-point, 15-rebound outing.
• Sophomore forward Brady Manek scored 15 points and pulled down five boards. Freshman guard Jamal Bieniemy dished out six assists – the most dimes by a Sooner this season.
• Senior center Jamuni McNeace returned to action after missing two games due to an ankle injury. McNeace played 14 minutes off the bench.
• The Sooners led by 12 at halftime (largest halftime lead of the season) and held the Trojans to 28 points in the first frame.
• Oklahoma has won 18 of its last 20 games inside Lloyd Noble Center and 20 of its last 22 “home” games (includes victories in OKC and Tulsa).
• The Sooners have won 134 of their last 141 non-conference games in Norman and are 42-4 at LNC against non-conference opponents under Kruger.
• Oklahoma is off to its fourth start of 9-1 (or better) during Kruger’s eight seasons as head coach (also third in the last four seasons). A win would give OU its fourth 10-1 start under Kruger. OU began the 2015-16 season 12-0 and saw a 12-1 start to its 2017-18 campaign.
• Tuesday’s matchup is OU’s third game at Lloyd Noble Center this season and only time playing in Norman in December (last home game was Nov. 27 vs. North Texas). Ten of OU’s first 13 games this season are being played outside of Norman. It is the fewest amount of games OU has played in Norman through 13 games since the start of the 1975-76 season when the Sooners only played three home games in their first 14 contests.
• The Sooners have won five games on the road or on neutral sites. No other Big 12 team has more than three wins away from home. (Does not count the Oklahoma City or Tulsa games, which are considered home games for RPI/NET purposes).
• With wins away from Norman over Florida, Dayton, Notre Dame, Wichita State and USC, Oklahoma’s strength of schedule and success away from Lloyd Noble Center has caught the attention of various evaluation formulas and rankings. The Sooners are No. 19 in the NCAA’s new NET Ranking (replaces the RPI), No. 10 in ESPN’s Strength of Record and No. 2 in CBS Sports’ RPI. As of the latest round of poll voting, Oklahoma was one spot out of the AP Top 25. OU’s average opponent NET rating is the second best in college basketball and the Sooners are one of only three schools in the country to not play any “Quadrant 4” games.
• Senior guard Christian James is fourth in the Big 12 scoring race with 18.9 points per game (KU’s Dedric Lawson leads the conference with 20.1 points per game).
• Sophomore forward Brady Manek ranks third in the Big 12 in rebounding with 8.0 boards per game. Manek averaged only 5.2 rebounds last season, but put on 20 pounds over the offseason to improve his physical presence in the paint. He has put together three double-doubles this season (had none his freshman year).
• The Sooners almost always have team success on nights that Manek is rolling. During his career, OU is 17-4 when Manek scores in double figures, 10-0 when he scores at least 15 points and 8-0 when he hit four or more 3-pointers.
• Junior forward Matt Freeman has been providing the Sooner bench with a deep threat over the last few weeks, sinking three 3-pointers and scoring 11 points in both contests against Notre Dame and Wichita State and making two 3s for six points versus USC. The stretch is the first time in his career he has hit multiple 3-pointers in three straight games. Freeman continues to show improvement, as the two-game stretch was just the second time in his career (and first since his freshman season) that he’s sunk multiple long balls in consecutive games. He’s already matched his total of made 3-pointers from last season (14), but has done so on 17 fewer attempts. He’s firing the long ball at a 53.8 percent clip.
• Freshman guard Jamal Bieniemy has picked up 16 steals in his first 10 games. His 1.6 steals per game are the eighth-most in the Big 12 (third among freshman).
• After swatting no shots in the first three games of the season, senior center Jamuni McNeace has totaled 14 blocked shots over his last five games. McNeace is ranked sixth in the Big 12 with an average of 1.9 rejections per game.
IN DEFENSE OF CHANGING STYLES
• For the second straight season, Oklahoma is off to a 9-1 start. Although their record matches last season’s start, the Sooners have completely shifted their style of play from 2017-18 to 2018-19. Head coach Lon Kruger has shown the flexibility to adjust his style of play to the personnel on his roster. Last season, the Sooners played a fast-tempo, high-scoring style through national rookie of the year Trae Young. As the first player to lead the country in scoring and assists, Young drove the Sooners offense to score 84.9 points per game – the fifth most of any team last season and the eighth most in program history. The Sooners’ 2017-18 tempo was the second fastest among major-conference teams with an average possession of only 14.0 seconds. Due to the speed of play and emphasis on free-flowing offense, the Sooners gave up an average of 81.7 points per game on the defensive end.
• This season, the Sooners are focusing much more on the defensive side – using their athleticism and length to force opponents deep into the shot clock and showing improvement in contesting shots. OU opponents are averaging 65.4 points per game and shooting 36.2 percent from the field (ranks second in the Big 12, sixth in the nation).
• Oklahoma’s defense has been especially disruptive late in the game. In OU’s nine wins, its opponents are shooting a combined 31.5 percent (20.8 percent from 3) in the final 15 minutes of the game.
• OU has held its opponent to 60 or fewer points in four of its last seven games.
• The Sooners have held their opponents to 30 or fewer points in the first half on six occasions this season (did so zero times last season).
• OU opponents have shot under 32 percent in five of OU’s 10 games this season.
FORTUNE FAVORS THE OLD
• 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 and only one scholarship freshman. Using the same KenPom experience metric, Oklahoma is No. 24 in experience this season and No. 1 among teams from major conferences.
• 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. On the day of OU’s 2018 season opener (Nov. 9), the Oklahoma roster was 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 294 games of collegiate experience and 122 starts. Both James and Odomes have been consistent members of OU’s starting lineup over the past three 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.
• The Sooner seniors also feature JUCO transfer Ty Lazenby, now in his second year at OU, and walk-ons Patrick Geha and Luke Stephenson.
UP NEXT: NORTHWESTERN
• The Sooners close out their non-conference with a road game in Big Ten country as Oklahoma faces Northwestern on Friday at 8 p.m. CT. The matchup will air on Big Ten Network from the newly-renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill.
• Oklahoma looks to have continued success away from home this season. OU is 7-1 in games outside of Norman this season and 2-0 in true road games.
• OU won the only previous meeting between the two programs last season, 104-78. OU outscored the Wildcats 68-38 in the first half, putting up its most points in any half since 1991. Oklahoma shot a season-best .611 (33-54) from the field overall and 17-of-28 (.607) from behind the arc. Christian James scored 19 points in the win (all in the first half).
• The Sooners are 2-5 against Big Ten teams during the Kruger era. Oklahoma’s only loss this season came to Big Ten member Wisconsin.