Led by guards Mo Gibson and Jordan Goldwire, all five of Oklahoma’s starters scored in double figures as the Sooners shot 52.1% from the floor in a 79-74 win over East Carolina in the opening round of the Myrtle Beach Invitational. Gibson and Goldwire scored 13 points each, with Goldwire also dishing out a team best six assists. They were supported by 12 points each from Tanner Groves and Jalen Hill and then 10 points from Elijah Harkless. The win improved OU to 3-0 on the season and put them in the semifinal round of the tournament.
The Game Defining Moment
After a quick start to the game Oklahoma fell behind ECU at the 12:15 mark of the first half when Alanzo Frink’s layup put the Pirates up 15-14. The Sooners stayed within striking distance throughout the remainder of the first half but didn’t actually retake the lead until Elijah Harkless hit a contested driving layup, just before the buzzer, for a 39-38 Sooner lead.
Oklahoma started the second half with a 5-0 run and never looked back from there. East Carolina made the game tense throughout the final twenty minutes but the Sooners never relinquished the lead that Harkless established before the half.
Before Thursday night freshman Bijan Cortes had only played garbage time minutes. That changed against ECU when he was inserted in the first half and then again in the second half when the game was still very much in doubt. Although he played just six total minutes in the game, he scored two points and found Jalen Hill for a sweet assist that led to a momentum building dunk early in the second half.
Back-To-Back In Beating The Boards
For the second game in a row Oklahoma beat its opponent on the boards. The Sooners outrebounded the Pirates by a margin of 31-23.
Careless With The Ball
If you’re looking for a criticism of Oklahoma’s performance on Thursday night then the easy, and obvious, place to go is in the turnover category. The Sooners turned the ball over sixteen times against ECU. That number is even more alarming when you realize it equals the number of assists OU had and is four times greater than the number of steals the Sooners produced.
The Problem Child
Sophomore guard Tristen Newton scored shot 7-of-14 from the floor and scored a game-high 18 points. He was one of three ECU players to score in double figures, Brandon Suggs (14) and Tremont Robinson-White (12).
With Tanner Groves facing some foul trouble this was a good night for someone else to step up to lead the team. Jordan Goldwire was more than up to that challenge. Not only did he match Mo Gibson in points but he also dished out six assists and grabbed two boards. His 13 points came on 50% shooting from the floor.
Oklahoma will face Indiana State in the semifinal round of the Myrtle Beach Invitational. Tipoff for the game is at 4:00 PM (CT) and it will be broadcast on ESPN 2.
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