Oklahoma basketball offense heats up as exhibition slate ends

NORMAN, Okla. — The Oklahoma basketball team certainly proved it can score on Wednesday, a 114-78 exhibition victory over East Central (Okla.) at Lloyd Noble Center the product of the Sooners flexing their offensive muscle for two hours.

Getting efficient evenings from 5-star freshman point guard Trae Young and junior guard Christian James is the expectation, and they delivered with 23 and 18 points, respectively.

But Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger was more concerned following the game with what the Sooners were willing to do to get the ball back. Giving up 45 first-half points troubled the coach.

“Defensively, we were better in the second half than the first, and that’s a good sign,” he said.

The Sooners, who open the season against Nebraska-Omaha on Sunday, shot 53.7 percent (44 for 82) and nearly doubled up East Central on the glass (52 to 32).

Young, the most prominent recruit to come to Oklahoma since Blake Griffin a decade ago, did more than score. He dished out a game-high 6 assists against 1 turnover.

The Sooners struggled with ball movement last season, finishing with more turnovers (428) than assists (329). Young’s skills is supposed to improve that dynamic.

“Coming here, I have a lot of really good scorers around me and a lot of good players around me. I want them to show their talents, too.”

Christian James stays hot

James connected on 6 of 11 shots and went 3 for 8 from 3-point range. It was another consistent performance for the junior, who shot just 36.3 percent from the field as a sophomore.

“I put in a lot of time and work over the summer, and it helped my confidence a lot,” James said. “My teammates have given me more confidence.”

James scored 28 points in the exhibition game against Texas-Arlington on Oct. 28. According to Kruger, James also led the Sooners in scoring in their closed scrimmage against Oregon last Saturday.

He’s played well enough to crack the lineup ahead of sophomore guard Kameron McGusty, the Sooners’ leading returning scorer. McGusty scored 15 points Wednesday night, going 5 for 8 from the field and 4 for 4 from the free-throw line.

Khadeem Lattin and Jamuni McNeace stand out

Oklahoma’s centers will face more sizable challenges this season. But Khadeem Lattin and Jamuni McNeace both put up impressive numbers in relatively short stints on the floor.

Lattin only played for 19 minutes but finished with 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked 3 shots.

McNeace was on the floor for 15 minutes and went 6 for 8 from the floor en route to 13 points. He snared 8 rebounds and blocked a shot, as well.

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