OU men's basketball: Learning on the fly, Oklahoma takes season-opener against UTSA 

OU's Austin Reaves shoots the ball Tuesday during the Sooners' game against UTSA at Lloyd Noble Center.

NORMAN, Okla. — Austin Reaves corralled an Alondes William pass and raced to Oklahoma’s basket on a breakaway midway through the second half.

A nearby UTSA defender, Keaton Wallace, went up for a block and altered Reaves’ lay-up opportunity. Reaves, the well-noted three-point shooter that transferred to OU from Wichita State a year ago, adjusted his shot, moving the ball from his right to his left hand and finished the play with an and-one score.

De’Vion Harmon, who made his Sooner debut just as Reaves did on Tuesday, quickly greeted his teammate along the baseline to celebrate. The exchange was among many joyous moments for the Sooners, who used a 49-point second half to outlast the Roadrunners 85-67 in their season opener.

“Man, we played a really good second half,” Harmon said. “A really good second half. I'm proud of my guys. Austin went nuts in the second half. That was crazy. And to witness that, just to see him just to go nuts, as a teammate, you've got to be happy for him.”

Harmon was just as impressive in the victory for a Sooner team that played eight newcomers.

Harmon, a true freshman, scored 23 points on 8-of-13 shots and knocked down 3-of-6 three-point attempts.

Reaves wasn't as proficient from the perimeter as he was during his Wichita State days, where he shot 45.1 percent from three-point range during the 2017-18 season with the Shockers. He still matched Harmon's team-high 23 points in the OU win.

The Lloyd Noble Center newcomers stepped up on a night when OU’s lone senior and one of the team's three returning starters, Kristian Doolittle, served a one-game suspension for violating NCAA rules this summer.

OU coach Lon Kruger used Doolittle’s absence, though, to test multiple rookies in his program.

Freshmen forwards Jalen Hill and Victor Iwuakor shared time in the lineup in place of Doolittle. Although, it was Hill who started.

“It was a matter of Jalen playing his minutes a little better in the first two ball games, the exhibition game and the scrimmage [last week],” Kruger said. “There was not much difference there. Not anything big. They were both going to share those minutes that [Doolittle] would have had otherwise.”

Iwuakor scored seven points off the bench in his debut, while Hill took one shot in 19 minutes played but contributed three rebounds.

Hill's OU debut ended a few minutes early, though, after he was inadvertently hit in the back of his head late in the second half.

“Got a little woozy,” Kruger said. “I’m not sure. He doesn't feel very good right now. I'm not sure what that means going forward.”

Kruger was pleased with Hill's efforts amid a collective performance that could materialize into a quality win.

UTSA was picked to finish second in Conference USA and boasted a backcourt that looked poised to give OU’s young guards — Harmon and sophomore Jamal Bieniemy — trouble.

UTSA juniors Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, who were preseason C-USA all-conference selections, scored 24 points and 17 points, respectively, in the loss. The Sooners outshot UTSA 47.7 percent to 33.8 percent from the field, however, in a non-conference clash that was tied at 36 entering halftime.

“This team, as young as we are, if we can win and learn, that’s a pretty good combination,” Kruger said. “Just continue to get better with each day in practice. Get one in the right column to start is great.”

Kruger credited OU’s second-half adjustments on defense for the separation it forced in the last 20 minutes.

The gradual improvement over the course of Tuesday's game was fitting for a group that Harmon feels didn’t play well enough in last Tuesday’s exhibition against Southeastern Oklahoma State and made major strides over the last seven days.

“In the exhibition game, I don't think we played that well to beat a Division I team,” Harmon said. “But we made so much progress in a week. And we're going to keep making progress. That's what it's all about, getting better every day. We're going to watch the film tomorrow and Thursday and get ready for Saturday.”

Joe Buettner

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jbuettner@normantranscript.com

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