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OU men's basketball: 3 takeaways from the Sooners' season-opener win over UTSA

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Kruger and Williams

OU coach Lon Kruger and junior guard Alondes Williams during the game against UTSA Nov. 5.

Oklahoma (1-0) defeated Texas San Antonio (0-1), 85-67, in its season opener Tuesday night in Norman.

The Roadrunners were a tough early season matchup for the Sooners that return just three players who were major contributors last season. The team’s lone senior, forward Kristian Doolittle, was out due to a one game penalty for breaking NCAA rules.

Meanwhile, UTSA was picked to finish second in Conference USA before this season and returns a backcourt that each averaged over 20 points per game last season.

The game was tied heading into halftime, but the Sooners quickly jumped out to a double digit lead after the break and never let up.

Here are our three takeaways from the Sooners' win: 

Slow start — fast finish

The Sooners found themselves tied heading into halftime after struggling on both sides of the court to start the game. OU was out-rebounded 24-16 in the first half and made just two of 13 attempts from three-point range.

In the second half, the Sooners out-rebounded UTSA 26-20.

After the game, Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger said he felt the team’s ability to get out in transition was the key to their success in the second half.

“Defensively, we did a better job of limiting them to one shot (in the second half),” Kruger said. “Transition was a huge key. Not great movement in the first half, not great activity, but I thought in the second half we got into transition, and it freed everybody up.”

The Sooners outscored UTSA 34-15 in fast break points and forced 15 turnovers. Oklahoma held the Roadrunners to 28 percent shooting in the second half and 21 percent from the three point line.

“I thought we rebounded the ball well to start the second half and that started to transition to shots, and they just started falling,” Reaves said.

De’Vion Harmon and Austin Reaves shine

Redshirt junior guard Austin Reaves appeared in his first game with the Sooners after transferring from Wichita State before last season. Reaves was instrumental in helping the Sooners get out to a big lead in the second half with his ability to score the ball. The Arkansas-native finished with 23 points and six rebounds while making 45 percent of his attempts from the field.

“Austin went nuts,” freshman guard De’Vion Harmon said. “That was crazy. Just to witness that, just to see him go nuts."

"Man, as a teammate, you’ve got to be happy for him.”

Harmon has been the most highly anticipated recruit at Oklahoma since Trae Young committed to the Sooners in 2017. The four-star combo guard from Texas had a very solid performance in his first game with the crimson and cream, scoring 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting and 3-of-6 from behind the arc.

The Texas-native was unhappy with his performance in the exhibition match and scrimmage last week, but Harmon felt Tuesday’s contest was an improvement.

“I didn’t shoot the ball well in the exhibition game or the scrimmage so I came back tonight and was 3-6 (from the 3-point line) and 8-of-13 (from the field)," Harmon said, "so I’m going to take what the defense gives me.”

Playing without Doolittle

With the team’s lone senior out for the season-opener, Kruger was forced to try different lineups to prevent UTSA from dominating the glass like they did in the first half.

Kruger said that the guards were a big difference in making that change, particularly sophomore guard Jamal Bieniemy.

“He sat out with several fouls early,” Kruger said. “He didn’t play too much in the first half. I talked to him at halftime that he was rested now, and we need something from him. I thought he did a great job on the boards, really key to a lot of transition opportunities and made some good plays for assists on the offensive end.”

Last season, Bieniemy led the team in assists, and he showed on Tuesday that he’s capable of picking up where he left off. The Texas-native finished with two points but led the team in both rebounds and assists with 11 and five, respectively.

Junior guard Alondes Williams had a decent game offensively in his first appearance scoring seven points on 2-of-7 shooting, but the six-foot-five shooting guard was able to make an impact in other ways. Williams had four rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes of action.

Kruger has high expectations for Williams this season.

“Alondes is a really talented guy," Kruger said. “I think we’ll see as he gets more comfortable, we’ll see him get more aggressive to attack. I think he’s trying to be careful right now, I think if loosens up a little bit, we’ll get really good results out of Alondes."

The Sooners will face off against Minnesota in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Saturday, Nov. 9.

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