Oklahoma basketball: Sooners get ready to face a top-25 opponent

PORTLAND, OR - NOVEMBER 26: Rashard Odomes
PORTLAND, OR - NOVEMBER 26: Rashard Odomes /

We know the Sooners are strong this season offensively and getting better defensively, and after Friday night we’ll know how good this Oklahoma basketball team is.

The 6-1 Sooners will tip off against No. 25 USC in the middle game of a Basketball Hall of Fame Classic triple-header at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The OU-USC contest will start at 9:30 p.m. and be broadcast on ESPN2.

Another team out of the Big 12, TCU, will play in a game following Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs will go up against Nevada in the nightcap. Arizona State and St. John’s will play in the opening game of the triple-header.

Oklahoma is led by true freshman point guard Trae Young, who leads the nation in scoring with a 28.7 average through seven games. Rated as a five-star prospect coming out of Norman North High School, Young has led the Sooners in scoring in all seven games this season, including a season-high 43-point performance in OU’s win over Oregon in the final round of the PK80 Invitational Tournament during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Oklahoma Sooners Basketball
Oklahoma Sooners Basketball /

Oklahoma Sooners Basketball

The Sooners’ up-tempo, high-scoring offense is averaging 94.4 points a game, second best among NCAA Division I teams. While Lon Kruger’s group is scoring a lot this season, it is also giving up  a lot of points. OU’s opponents are averaging 79.7 points per game, last in the Big 12.

Aside from scoring at a higher clip, another area in which Oklahoma is doing a much better job this season is ball movement and distribution. The emergence in the latter area is largely the result of the presence of Young at the point-guard position. The Sooners are averaging 18.7 assists per game in 2017-18, with Young providing almost half of the total. That’s almost eight assists more per game than a year ago.

Oklahoma is 4-0 against Pac-12 teams under Kruger, and one of those wins came this season against Oregon. The Sooners and USC Trojans have met 11 times on the hardwood, with OU winning six of them. USC holds the advantage, though, in games played in Los Angeles, 3-2. The last time these two teams faced each other was in 2007 and 2008 when they played a two-game home and home series. USC won the first game in the series, 66-55, in Los Angeles. Oklahoma turned the tables the following season, winning 73-72 in Norman.

Something to keep an eye on against USC Friday night: Through the first seven games of the 2017-18 season, OU is 4-0 when it shoots better than 50 percent and delivers 20 or more assists.

After the game with USC, the Sooners will head back home and not play again until next Saturday, when they hit the road again. Next Saturday OU travels to Wichita, Kansas, for a game against No. 6 Wichita State.