James, Calixte lead Oklahoma past UTSA 87-67
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger got a lot accomplished in the Sooners' first road trip of the season.
The veteran coach helped some old friends, his team bonded during a week on the road and, most importantly, Oklahoma opened the season with two blowout victories.
Christian James scored 24 points, Aaron Calixte had 18 and the Sooners overcame an early challenge to beat UTSA 87-67 on Monday night.
Oklahoma (2-0) closed the game on a 39-15 run to remain unbeaten following its second straight road contest to open the season.
"I liked their response to the run, but of course we didn't like their runs," Kruger said. "But (UTSA coach Steve) Henson has got a good club and we knew they'd fight hard and compete and I thought they did a great job of that. Proud of our guys to be able to handle it there late and pull away and create a little bit of a margin."
Henson played for Kruger at Kansas State and served as his assistant at UNLV from 2004-2011 and at Oklahoma from 2011-2016 before taking over at UTSA.
"High, major programs don't leave home very often in non- conference," Henson acknowledged. "For them to come in here and help us have this kind of atmosphere just tells you the kind of person coach Kruger is."
The Roadrunners had their largest attendance in years with 2,500 fans as UTSA kept pace with Oklahoma for much of the game.
The game was a series of big runs with Oklahoma opening and closing the game in dominating fashion.
"In stretches we weren't doing what we needed to and then at other times we did a great job defensively," Kruger said. "So, we've got to get that great job part for 40 minutes."
UTSA missed its first 16 shots and committed five turnovers in falling behind 7-0 in the opening seven minutes. The Roadrunners first basket came eight minutes into the game on a layup by Adrian Rodriguez.
The Sooners didn't fare much better, opening 4 for 17. The offensive struggles enabled the Roadrunners to tie it at 26 on Rodriguez's hook shot. Oklahoma closed the second half on an 11-1 run.
"You always focus on the good stuff," Kruger said. "You always focus on the good and then you learn from the bad. That's how you get better."
UTSA responded by opening the second half on a 19-6 run to take its first lead at 48-46 on De Nicolao's shot.
The Roadrunners were unable to maintain the pace, closing the game as they began by missing shots. UTSA closed the game shooting 3 for 12.
"They flipped it on us," Henson said. "They started getting what they wanted. In hindsight, I probably should have burned another timeout. We used two in the first half, which we don't usually do so we only had two left. We certainly wanted to have one way down the stretch. We just couldn't get to that next media timeout."
Kruger got to visit Henson and another former Sooners assistant, Lew Hill, who is coaching Texas-Rio Grande Valley, during their two-game road trip.
While helping out his former assistants' programs was key to Kruger's decision to travel, he also had some selfish reasons.
"Any time you go on the road and experience life away from Norman in a tough arena, that's going to help the team," Kruger said. "We had good stretches in both ballgames and we had stretches we can learn from in both ballgames. So, it's been hugely beneficial."
Oklahoma: The Sooners got the early challenge they wanted after a blowout victory in its season opener. Oklahoma spent the weekend in San Antonio, taking in a Spurs game and bonding in preparation for a hectic close to the year. ... It was the first time the Sooners have opened the season with two road games outside Oklahoma since 1938.
UTSA: The Roadrunners kept pace with the Sooners until midway through the second half when they struggled to make a shot. After a one-point loss in its season opener, a blowout victory was not any better for the young Roadrunners.
Oklahoma plays at home for the first time this season when it hosts Wofford on Sunday.
UTSA travels to take on Oklahoma State on Wednesday in its second straight game against a Big 12 opponent.