It’s eight up and eight down for Oklahoma basketball under Lon Kruger.
The Sooners opened the 2018-19 college basketball season Friday night with a 91-76 road victory over the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. It was Oklahoma’s eighth straight season-opening victory since Kruger took over the men’s hoops reins in Norman.
The Sooners have opened the season on the road just twice since Kruger has been at OU (2013-14 was the other; OU opened against Alabama in Dallas, Texas).
Led by a career-high 29 points from senior Christian James, Oklahoma shot 50 percent from the floor and nearly that well from behind the three-point line. Jamuni McNeace and Brady Manek both pulled down a dozen rebounds.
The Sooners built up a 12-point halftime lead, 43-31, but outscored the overmatched Vacqueros by just three points in the second half (48-45).
The game with UTRGV featured a coaching reunion and marked a return for Kruger to the school where he began his career as a college head coach. The OU head coach spent four seasons as coach at Texas Pan-American (1982-86), which is now part of UTRGV.
Lew Hill, in his third season as coach at UTRGV, was an assistant at Oklahoma for five seasons (2011-16) under Kruger.
On Monday, Kruger will go up against another former assistant when the Sooners square off against the University of Texas-San Antonio, coached by longtime Kruger assistant Steve Henson. Henson coached under Kruger at both UNLV and for five seasons at OU.
Here are the major takeaways from Oklahoma’s season-opening hoops win:
- Eleven Sooners played in the game, and 10 of them scored. Seven of the 11 who played in the game scored at least six points.
- Graduate transfer Aaron Calixte, who replaces Trae Young at point guard, had an impressive debut with the Sooners. Calixte, who played three seasons at Maine, scored 15 points, including three of four three-balls.
- OU’s other graduate transfer, Miles Reynolds, who played last season at Pacific (California), was scoreless from the field but hit all six of his free-throw attempts.
- Oklahoma led virtually the entire game. The Sooners trailed for just 39 seconds, and that was very early in the game.
- The Sooners opened up a 23-point lead in the second half.
- Four different Sooners were credited with seven blocked shots in the game.