NORMAN – Whether it was a drop off in competition or coming home to the Lloyd Noble Center, where they lost just once last season, the Oklahoma Sooners certainly looked much more comfortable Friday night.
No. 8 Oklahoma needed a late surge to stave off an upset in the season opener, but in the home opener, the Sooners made quick work of McNeese State – getting just about everything they wanted on the way to an 85-56 victory and sometimes passing on what it earned for even better opportunities.
“We turned down some pretty good looks and I thought maybe over-passed it a few times, which is a good problem to have,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “This is a group that wants to make plays for each other. They’ll keep doing that.”
The Sooners know what they have presently.
Guard Buddy Hield, who finished with a game-high 24 points in just 23 minutes, went on a 13-1 run on his own after halftime to push a 17-point lead even wider. Then the defense, which held McNeese State (0-3) to 28.1 percent shooting in the first half, led to offense as Oklahoma (2-0) stretched it even further with a trio of run-outs.
But they also got another taste of the future.
Playing with added confidence after a pre-game chat from Hield, Isaiah Cousins and the coaching staff, freshman Rashard Odomes scored 15 points. He attacked the basket, throwing down a pair of dunks and going 6-for-7 from the field for Okahoma, which won its 23rd straight home opener.
“I wish they'd shoot the ball more but they're getting used to it,” said Hield as Odomes smiled next to him. “I like their attack. . . . They're going to keep learning as the game goes on, and he had a good game (Friday). So hopefully, he keeps working at it and watching film to get better.”
After fellow freshman Christian James shined in the exhibition season, Odomes was active defensively and called for the ball on the offensive end after failing to score in his last two appearances – the season opener against Memphis and the final exhibition win.
Cousins also chipped in 15 points but said after the game that Odomes made him think of the past – just a little bit.
“They kind of remind me of me and Buddy when we first came here,” Cousins said. “They're aggressive, and they just bring energy and they're always talking trash. It's fun seeing that coming in and growing so it's pretty fun.”
The only negative coming out of Friday as Oklahoma prepares for another home match-up against Incarnate Word on Tuesday was its struggle from the free-throw line.
Junior college transfer Akolda Manyang saw the first action of his career, playing for the first time in nearly four months starting this past week in practice.
“As he gets more comfortable, as he gets in shape, as he gets a few reps under his belt,” Kruger said. “He just hasn't played very much in the last four months but it was good to get him out there, get his feet wet and his teammates were excited for him.”