COLUMBIA, S.C. – Fans streaming into Colonial Life Arena likely expected a blowout during the afternoon session. They may not have gotten the one they expected, however.
Four Sooners finished in double figures, leading a dominant, 95-72 Oklahoma victory over Ole Miss. The ninth-seeded Sooners never trailed in the contest.
“Oklahoma, give them all the credit,” said Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis. “They totally outclassed us, out-toughed us in every area.”
Oklahoma seemed nearly incapable of missing as the game commenced, with the Sooners knocking down eight straight shots and 9-of-10 in building a 22-11 lead at the first media stoppage. Ole Miss continued to counter, knocking down eight in a row in one stretch, but could make little headway against the sizzling Sooners.
“It just seemed like we wouldn’t contest a shot. We would guard, and their hands were down, and it was just so easy for them,” said Davis. “I saw kind of a different look on our team, and I just wanted to call a quick time-out (with the Sooners up, 4-0) and just kind of settle down our team. It didn’t do a lot of good, because they went on another 8-0 run.”
“To start the game off, we knew we had to come out with a lot of energy, be able to hit first, set the tone for the rest of the game,” said Oklahoma forward Kristian Doolittle. “Shooting the ball well really helps do that. We were able to get stops on defense and force them into tough shots and be able to rebound the basketball.”
Ole Miss eventually cooled a bit, converting on just 1-of-7 during a cold stretch. Oklahoma held firm and endured an icy patch of its own, taking a 50-33 advantage to the interval. The Sooners dropped just shy of 58 percent of their first-half tries (19-for-33), with four of their six tries finding the net. The Rebels performed well, for their part, hitting 52 percent (13-for-25) from the field and 54.5 percent (6-for-11) from distance.
Oklahoma’s Rashard Odomes converted 6-of-7 tries in the first half, leading all scorers with 14 points. Guards Terence Davis (12 points) and Devontae Shuler (10) ventured into double digits in the opening half for Ole Miss.
The second half started much as the first, with Oklahoma hitting seven of its first eight shots and Ole Miss six of its first ten. The Sooners extended their lead to 20, before a brief Rebel run capped by two Bruce Stevens free throws trimmed the margin to 15. Oklahoma then went on a 9-0 run to swell the lead to 24 and essentially finish off the eighth-seeded Rebels.
Odomes and Christian James paced the Sooners in the contest, scoring 20 apiece. Doolittle added 19, while Brady Manek tallied 18. Oklahoma manhandled Ole Miss in the paint, enjoying a 44-32 advantage.
“We’ve had different guys different times in the year step up and be key scorers for us, not always the same guy. Today they kind of all hit on the same date,” said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger. “But the guys moved the ball. They got good looks. A lot of different guys stepped up and played well.”
“Just the team really got me going, you know. Before the game, we were all hyped, and it’s just the way everyone’s been practicing previously,” said Odomes. “So the team found me for good looks, and I just finished, honestly.”
The Sooner defense also rose to the occasion, forcing 11 Rebel miscues (10 steals), which led to 15 Oklahoma points. Oklahoma shot 57.6 percent (34-for-59) on the contest, along with dropping 80.8 percent (21-for-26) from the charity stripe.
Ole Miss, conversely, shot just four free throws, making three. Terence Davis topped the Rebels’ four double-digit scorers, pouring in 17 on 6-of-14 shooting. Palmetto State native Devontae Shuler added 13, with Blake Hinson totaling 11 and Breein Tyree 10. The Rebels knocked down 11-of-31 three-point tries (35.5 percent), to go along with their 46.8 percent (29-for-62) from the floor.
Oklahoma advances to Sunday’s second-round game, where it will face off with the Virginia/Gardner-Webb winner. Tip time will be announced later in the day.
Postgame Press Conferences