Oklahoma gets final Big 12 tuneup vs. Houston Baptist

NCAA Basketball

In its final nonconference date before nine consecutive Big 12 Conference matchups, Oklahoma welcomes Houston Baptist into the Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday.

The Sooners (4-1) seek their third consecutive win. They rebounded from a 99-77 loss at Xavier on Dec. 9 with wins of 31 points over Florida A&M, and 14 points against Oral Roberts.

Wednesday’s win over Oral Roberts was noteworthy for marking the debut of transfer Elijah Harkless, who went scoreless on just 0 of 3 shooting in 10 minutes. He grabbed four rebounds in the win.

The Cal State Northridge transfer — who averaged almost 11 points per game in 2019-20 — adds depth to the Sooners’ rotation after the NCAA cleared him this week. His integration into the offense will be a development to follow on Saturday, as Oklahoma comes in ranked No. 11 nationally in adjusted efficiency on that side of the ball, per KenPom.com.

Brady Manek has been key to the Sooners’ offense, knocking down almost 49 percent of his 35 attempts from 3-point land on the season. Umoja Gibson, another transfer, came off the bench on Wednesday to complement Manek with four made 3-pointers of his own.

“We knew he was going to make shots. He does it every day in practice and puts the time in to do that, so great to see Moe’s doing that,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger told the Tulsa World after the win.

Houston Baptist (1-6), which comes into Norman, Okla., ranked No. 355 in adjusted defensive efficiency, is giving up 37% to opponents from behind the 3-point arc.

The Huskies surrendered 8 of 18 shooting from outside in their 85-55 loss on Thursday at North Texas, and 12 of 34 in a 90-79 defeat at Rice on Tuesday. Since losing the season-opener to TCU on Nov. 25 by 24 points, Houston Baptist has allowed at least 85 points against the rest of its Div. I competition.

Last season, the Huskies gave up more than 93 points per game, last in the Southland Conference. Houston Baptist coach Ron Cottrell told the Houston Chronicle last month that “we had to improve in that area.”

The Huskies like to push the pace, averaging the No. 24-fastest tempo in the nation. Four Huskies — Za-Ontay Boothman, Pedro Castro, Hunter Janacek and Ty Dalton — have made seven or more 3-pointers on the season.

Trying to keep pace with Oklahoma in a track meet could be a tall order for Houston Baptist, however.

–Field Level Media

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