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OU men's basketball: Practice notebook ahead of game against UTSA

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De'Vion Harmon (copy)

Freshman point guard De'Vion Harmon smiles while talking to reporters June 27.

The Sooners took questions after practice Monday ahead of their season opener against Texas-San Antonio on Tuesday.

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger returns three starters from a season ago, but the rest of his squad will look very different. Kruger signed the No. 14-ranked recruiting class for 2019, including one of the top-five point guards in the class in De’Vion Harmon.

Here’s what Kruger and Harmon had to say prior to their season opener:

Rick Issanza and Anyang Garang to redshirt

After missing the team’s exhibition game against Southeastern Oklahoma State, Kruger said freshman center Rick Issanza was out with a groin strain and some soreness in his knee. After practice, Kruger said Issanza decided on Sunday to redshirt his freshman season.

Freshman forward Anyang Garang also decided to redshirt this season, a process Kruger said the two are ready to take on. 

“I’m excited for both of them, they’re excited about it,” Kruger said. “Just like Kerr and Austin did last year with their redshirt years, these guys will make great progress with their redshirt year.” 

Harmon looking to set the tone early

Despite playing in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball, the Sooners have continued to play in tough nonconference games early in the season.

Most notably, Oklahoma will play in the 2019 Hall of Fame Classic against Stanford, followed by a matchup with either Butler or Missouri. Harmon said that because of this, the team feels a sense of urgency in their opening game against the Roadrunners.

“It’s a big thing, you gotta set the tone early," Harmon said. “You can’t just flip on the switch when you want to. This is college basketball, this is a big thing, big games. No matter who you’re playing, you got to come in and you got to set a tone from the start, and that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”

Scrimmage against SMU was an improvement on exhibition game

The Sooners had a slow start against Southeastern Oklahoma State. Kruger’s squad carried just a 6-point lead into halftime before pulling away to a 89-76 victory. Last Friday, the Sooners held a scrimmage against SMU, and Harmon said he felt the team had a much better performance than they did in the exhibition match.

“Last week, we were letting them attack us more than we were attacking them," Harmon said. “I think SMU last Friday, man, we were ... our defensive pressure ... more intensity, more talk, more scrambling. That’s going to help us for tomorrow night’s game and then the next 30 games we have. So I mean, if we play like that, I think we have a good chance to win every night.”

Kruger said the scrimmage against SMU was really important for the freshmen who haven’t had much experience against other collegiate teams.

“We carried a lot of that exhibition game over, in terms of things we needed to work on," Kruger said. “I thought our guys did a good job. You forget that only three of these guys have played in a Big 12-type game before, so it’s a good experience for them to play in another Division 1 game here tomorrow.”

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