Oklahoma basketball: Second-half second wind earns Sooners’ second win

LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 13: Christian James
LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 13: Christian James /

Veteran Christian James and newcomer Aaron Calixte again led the way as men’s Oklahoma basketball chalked up win number two in as many outings in the new season.

The Sooners let a 10-point halftime advantage slip away in the opening minutes of the second half, but poured it on over the final 12 minutes to pull away for an 87-67 road victory on Monday over the University of Texas-San Antonio.

For a second straight outing, OU head coach Lon Kruger and the Sooners took their show on the road and went up against a former Oklahoma assistant. On Monday night, the reunion was with longtime former Kruger assistant Steve Henson, who played under Kruger at Kansas State and spent 13 seasons as one of his assistants at three different schools (one season at Illinois, seven at UNLV and five at Oklahoma).

Oklahoma opened the season on Saturday against the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, which is coached by Lew Hill, who accompanied Kruger to OU from UNLV in 2011 when Kruger took over the reins at Oklahoma.

Although the final score was indicative of a blowout victory by the Sooners was much closer for nearly three-quarters of the contest. Oklahoma widened a three-point lead to 10 over the final minute and a half of the first half, scoring the final seven points of the half.

UTSA caught the Sooners and took a one-point lead, 52-51, a little over seven minutes into the second half, but Oklahoma ramped up its offense and defensive pressure, outscoring the Roadrunners 35-16 from there.

Here are the several takeaways from the Sooners second victory of the young 2018-19 season:

This is Christian James’ team

Now in his fourth season at Oklahoma, Christian James had never averaged more than 11.9 points a year entering his senior season. In the first two game this season, the 6-foot, 4-inch guard is averaging 26 points and 3.5 made three-point shots.

In Monday’s win over UTSA, James scored 24 points, but more importantly that production came on eight of 10 shooting, three of five three-balls and a perfect five of five from the charity stripe.

Solid bench production

Eleven Sooners saw action against UTSA. The OU reserves contributed 19 points off the bench, 15 of those coming from a pair of newcomers to the roster. True freshman Jamal Bieniemy had eight points and five steals in 21 minutes, and graduate transfer Miles Reynolds added seven points. The two reserve guards also played strong defense, a facet of the OU game that Kruger would like to see improved on this season.

Shooting proficiency

For the second straight game, OU shot better than 50 percent. The Sooners are getting good penetration from their guards and are finishing in the paint. Oklahoma outscored UTSA 52-32 in points in the paint, which indicates the Sooners were getting good looks inside.