By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY — Since their season began, the Oklahoma men’s basketball team has been living on the road. With trips through Texas, the Bahamas and New York, it has been a suitcase life for OU.
The Sooners returned back home Saturday for only its second game in the state this season. However, they weren’t officially at home when they took on Wichita State. The game was held at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
Despite a sluggish start, the Sooners beat up on the Shockers to the tune of 80-48.
The win moved OU to 8-1 on the season and winners of four straight.
“It was a good win against a club that’s going to win a lot of ball games this year,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “I thought the first half we looked careless with the ball. I was really impressed with the way the guys regrouped. And really came out and played awfully well in the second half.”
Christian James led the Sooners with 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Miles Reynolds also added 14 points on 3 of 6 shooting.
Markis McDuffie scored a game-high 19 points for Wichita State. However, the senior forward was not happy with how his team responded to adversity.
“Oklahoma just took off and started playing as a team,” McDuffie said. “They started knocking down shots, gaining a lot of confidence. We were still stuck in our ways, trying to figure out how we’re going to turn the game up. We just couldn’t do that today.”
The early start (11 a.m.) to the game seemed to have some kind of effect on both team’s offenses. Five minutes into the contest Oklahoma and Wichita State had combined for just six points.
The only Sooner who was able to find his shot somewhat was James. He had scored 9 of the team’s first 15 points.
McDuffie paced the Shockers early on as he was difficult for the OU frontline to handle in the paint.
Oklahoma was able to push its lead into double digits with just over two minutes left in the half at 32-22. But Wichita State scored the next five points to close the gap to five points.
A 3-pointer from Matt Freeman gave the Sooners a 35-27 halftime advantage.
“We just had to slow down,” James said. “We tried to force a couple of things in transition. We just have to slow down and get a feel for the ball.”
Oklahoma came into the second half playing with renewed energy. They outscored Wichita State 16-7 to sprint to a 51-34 lead.
But it was on the defensive end that the Sooner’s excitement level seemed to jump up a few levels compared to the first half.
“It was a really good stretch. A lot of that was keyed by defensively, getting deflections, getting steals and turning them into transition,” Kruger said. “Guys did a good job of sharing the ball and finishing plays. But a lot of that was initiated on the defensive end.”
The Shockers wouldn’t get any closer as the Sooners poured it on the rest of the game.
Oklahoma tore apart WSU with a balanced attack as four players reached double figures and nine players scored at least four points.
McDuffie was the only member of the Shockers to score more than 8 points. OU outrebounded Wichita State 52-33 and held them to 24 percent shooting from the field and 18 percent from 3-point range.
“I think that just has a lot to do with us enjoying playing defense,” Reynolds said. “We know when we’re locked in defensively. When we’re playing as a unit, not too many teams are going to get very good looks against us. That’s going to allow us to get out in transition. One of the things I really bring to the table, is enthusiasm, passion on both ends of the floor. I think it’s contagious right now.”
The Sooners are off until Saturday when they travel north to Tulsa where they will host the University of Southern California. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. at the BOK Center.