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Sooners improve to 6-1 with 73-57 victory over North Texas

NORMAN, Okla. — In their return to the Lloyd Noble Center from a three-game trip in the Bahamas, the Sooners knocked off the North Texas Mean Green 73-57 Tuesday evening. That improved their record to 6-1 on the young season.

“A tough, obviously ragged battle early,” said head coach Lon Kruger. “I thought both teams were playing extremely hard, but couldn’t get anything going on either end offensively. Then, the second half I thought our guys attacked much more offensively, moved the ball better, guard pretty well throughout the night. Again, we’ve got to learn from each opportunity. It’s always good to win and learn.”

Through the first eight-plus minutes, the Sooners led it only 12-8. They built a brief seven-point lead, but couldn’t get any more separation, as the Mean Green drew back within 29-27 at half.

After leading by five in the opening moments of the second half, North Texas used a quick 7-0 run to capture its first lead of the contest at 34-32. OU countered, though, and never trailed again. It led by double digits with just less than 10 minutes to play and by as much as 19 when guard Christian James canned a 3-pointer with just more than a minute remaining.

Center Jamuni McNeace was a beast throughout. He notched a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, hitting 5-of-6 shots from the field.

“I feel like they were pretty big as a team,” McNeace said. “One of their bigs, Zach [Simmons], I saw him in high school. I watched him grow up. He’s a good post, so I was looking forward to battling him the whole night.”

McNeace also had his fair share of help from guard Miles Reynolds, who poured in a game-high 17 points off the bench, and forward Brady Manek, who added 10. Reynolds played some key minutes with James, OU’s leading scorer through the first six games, on the bench with foul trouble.

“We finally found it a little bit in the second half, Christian again with foul trouble there,” Kruger said. “We put him back in with two and it was really just to see if he could play with two fouls in the first half. And it was a loose ball foul, so it wasn’t like he made a bad decision with the two fouls. He just kind of got greedy on a loose ball and picked up his third, but good to learn from that as well. I thought our other guys did respond well, especially defensively.”

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OU limited North Texas to only 27.5 percent from the field in its first time holding an opponent under 60 points in consecutive games since the 2014-15 season. Dayton managed only 54 in last weekend’s Battle 4 Atlantis finale.

The Sooners, meanwhile, hit 47.2 percent of their shots, but only 17-of-33 from the free throw line. They narrowly won the rebounding battle, 42-41.

The game featured five ties and two lead changes. OU led for all but 4:04, trailing for only 13 seconds.

For North Texas, guards Ryan Woolridge and Roosevelt Smart both finished in double figures with 17 and 13, respectively.

The Sooners now have a week off before taking on Notre Dame in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Tipoff against the Fighting Irish is set for 6 p.m. CT Tuesday.

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