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OU basketball: Duo of Austin Reaves, De'Vion Harmon key against No. 15 Texas Tech

OU guard Austin Reaves goes to the basket in front of Houston Baptist guard Hunter Janacek, right, in the first half Saturday. [AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki]
OU guard Austin Reaves goes to the basket in front of Houston Baptist guard Hunter Janacek, right, in the first half Saturday. [AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki]

NORMAN — Texas Tech’s defense has been strong in its first eight games.

Only three opponents have scored more than 20 points in the first half, with No. 3-ranked Kansas scoring 29 recently.

OU is certainly aware of that, which makes the Sooners’ backcourt duo of Austin Reaves and De’Vion Harmon more valuable.

“That versatility and ability to attack and make plays off the dribble, that’s huge for us,” OU coach Lon Kruger said.

The Sooners host No. 15-ranked Texas Tech at 6 p.m. on Tuesday to close out the 2020 calendar while looking to improve to 2-0 in Big 12 play.

They’ll enter the game with one of the top offenses in the conference, and it starts with the play of Reaves at point guard.

He averages 16.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.2 assists, a number that’s nearly twice as much as last season’s total when he primarily played a wing position.

“I’m comfortable in the role,” Reaves said. “I really always wanted to be a point guard.”

Reaves started the season with just two turnovers in two games. His turnovers have since risen to 14 in the next four games.

But he’s also facing less pressure with Harmon in the starting lineup. Harmon is another point guard. Kruger also likes Alondes Williams’ ball-handling abilities.

“It's a really good thing to have when you have two-to-three guys that can handle the ball,” Reaves said. “And in our case, I think we've got three or four, if not more, that can make plays for others.

“It helps everything just flow a little better, nothing's gotta be a certain way. It can all really just flow into however we want it to go, so I think that that's the main thing is just how versatile we can be with the players that we have.”

Christmas break important

With the long calendar year coming to a close in a pandemic, the Sooners will get a welcome break after Tuesday.

And they’ll finally get a chance to return to their homes, though with extra precautions due to the spread of COVID-19.

“Big concerns, but they definitely need to go home,” Kruger said. “We've handled things well. They've been here since July without really a chance to get back home in general. Those who are fairly local, of course, can get home.

“For the most part, they haven't been home since July. Absolutely, we want them to have a chance to get home. Obviously, we have to be careful and smart and do everything we possibly can to come back healthy.”

Reaves admitted this season has been tough mentally. So, he welcomes a chance to safely visit his family.

“It’s kind of a fine line between those two things,” he said. “So, really just go home, be with your close family, close friends and then get back.”

Tough stretch

The Sooners have never faced a four-game stretch like the one that begins Tuesday.

No. 15 Texas Tech, No. 7 West Virginia, No. 2 Baylor and No. 3 Kansas await OU through Jan. 9.

If each team remains ranked and the games are played, it will be the first time in program history that the Sooners have faced four ranked teams in a row.

OU has been strong against ranked opponents of late, though. It has won two straight and three of its last five.

“Any time you look at any three- , four- or five-game stretch in Big 12 play, it's probably going to be something similar to what we have here,” Kruger said. “We're getting the true test of the top half real fast if you go by preseason stuff and production to this point.

“It's a tough stretch and everyone's going to have one of two of those stretches during conference play. We have ours right off the bat.”

Jacob Unruh

Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the... Read more ›