Lattin leads new-look Oklahoma past Northwestern State 97-61
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Khadeem Lattin showed he could also be a force on the offensive end for Oklahoma during the Sooners' season opener on Sunday.
The junior forward, mostly called upon for his defense to this point in his career, showed his offensive chops against Northwestern State, posting a career-high 19 points to go with 11 rebounds and lifting Oklahoma to a 97-61 rout.
The only other returning starter from last season's Final Four team, Jordan Woodard, added 16 points for Oklahoma (1-0). Coach Lon Kruger subbed early and often as 10 Sooners scored in the first half while Oklahoma raced to a 46-27 lead.
Oklahoma has won 14 straight season openers and 19 straight home openers. The Sooners improved to 31-2 at home against nonconference opponents under Kruger.
''This group is going to make progress all the way through March,'' Kruger said. ''. It's going to be a work in progress for a while, but I'm excited to see where they go and who steps up and who is doing what roles. Being that much different than last year is one of the more intriguing, enjoyable parts of this team – the uncertainty of what lies ahead and who does what.''
Lattin was 7 of 9 from the field against Northwestern State (0-2). He had two baskets in an 18-2 run to start the game. After the Demons closed to 35-24, Lattin added two more during the final 4:24 of the half. The double-double was the third of his career.
He said it was a different feeling to be an offensive focal point for the Sooners.
''You change the way you think, but you always just want the best results for your team,'' Lattin said. ''My teammates, we all do a really good job of moving the ball and we're a really well-balanced team. We are able to attack and do things from all parts of the floor and that's really exciting.''
Zeek Woodley, the second-leading career scorer in NCAA Division I, led Northwestern State with 19 points, and Ishmael Lane and Malik Metoyer added 11 and 10, respectively. But there wasn't much else positive for the Demons, coach Mike McConathy said.
Lane ''played hard but he couldn't finish plays,'' McConathy said. ''Zeek Woodley had a good line and Malik Metoyer . really had a lot of pop to him. Zeek is kind of a non-traditional player in that he is very efficient offensively. He's very smooth. He kind of moves like he's loafing, but he's moving. I thought he competed well.''
Northwestern State: For the Demons, it was another chance to test themselves against a major-conference foe as they prepare for Southland Conference play. They've got two more opportunities to do so – and maybe steal what would be a highlight win – with road games at Missouri and Mississippi State later this month.
Oklahoma: This was a classic icebreaker for the Sooners, who wanted a low-risk game to get acclimated to life without Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler – who started the past three seasons – before likely facing their true first test later this week. The Sooners are 9-1 all-time against current Southland Conference members, including 6-0 against Northwestern State.
Oklahoma was without one of its more experienced players in sophomore Dante Buford. Buford was ruled ineligible for the Sooners' first three games of the season for receiving an extra benefit for one of his complimentary tickets during last season's NCAA tournament. Buford averaged 3.5 points per game off the bench last season for Oklahoma's Final Four team.
OKLAHOMA'S NEW KIWI
Matt Freeman might be a long way from challenging Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams as the state's favorite New Zealand native, but the 6-foot-10 freshman made a strong first impression. Freeman went 3 of 4 from 3-point range, had a steal-and-dunk in the second half and finished with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
''I'm going to put it down to my poker face, to be honest with you,'' Freeman said. ''It was tough the first time I came out there . but the more you get up and down the court and get used to it, it's just a basketball game.''
Northwestern State: The Demons will take a break from their string of road games – with four of their first six games against major-college foes – to host NCAA Division III LeTourneau (Texas) on Friday and Louisiana State-Alexandria of the NAIA on Nov. 22.
Oklahoma: The Sooners will travel to Orlando, Florida to play in the Tire Pros Invitational. Oklahoma will face Tulane on Thursday and either Arizona State or Northern Iowa on Friday, with the tournament's final round to be played next Sunday. Clemson, Missouri, Xavier and Davidson are on the other side of the bracket.