Harkless all-around effort sparks Sooners
It’s been just more than a month now for Oklahoma transfer guard Elijah Harkless to be on the court and figure out his role.
He went from being ineligible one week to eligible to now starting the last three games for the Sooners and had his most impressive outing for OU on Tuesday in a 76-50 victory against visiting Kansas State to improve OU to 8-4 overall and back over .500 in Big 12 play at 4-3.
It wasn’t the points, although Harkless did some of that with eight points, but 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals. Doing a little bit of everything and doing it at a higher level with each performance.
“For sure. I believe energy can be there every night,” Harkless said. “You might not make some shots or everything else, but the energy and blue-collar mentality, you can have that every single night.”
That’s what it took to finally pull away from KSU. OU was a heavy favorite coming in, but the Wildcats were up 22-17 during the latter stages of the first half. That’s when defense turned into offense, and a tight one turned into a relaxing second half.
The Sooners went on a 34-10 run combining the early portion of the second half to cruise the rest of the way. OU forced 20 turnovers as the defensive intensity continues to be a bright spot.
Harkless wasn’t eligible initially to start the season. But once all transfers were deemed eligible last month by the NCAA, he was able to start finding his footing.
What he has done in practice hasn’t always translated on the court, but Tuesday evening was hopefully a sign of things to come for OU fans.
“Today, obviously very comfortable and was great,” head coach Lon Kruger said. “Rebound the basketball and get us out in transition. Made a lot of almost plays as well with deflections. Good to see him kind of let it go and play with that level of confidence that he did today.”
Sophomore guard De’Vion Harmon led the way with 16 points and four rebounds. Alondes Williams added 13 points, while Kur Kuath had 12 points and five blocks.
A scary moment with six minutes left in the second half when Harmon went down, but Kruger said it was just a cramp and Harmon should be fine.
“Just a cramp. Wasn’t any blow or any twisting,” Kruger said. “Just a cramp. Relieved, after the game, he said he was fine. After a cramp, you’re a little sore. But yea, it was pretty intense there for a while.”
*It was the first game back for Brady Manek and Jalen Hill. The two had missed the previous couple of games because of COVID-19 protocols. Each scored six points.
“Brady practiced for just a little bit yesterday for the first time in almost two weeks,” Kruger said. “Didn’t know if he was going to be able to be out there, but it was good seeing him out there, get his feet wet and get down a shot. Jalen, I thought in the second half defensively, was outstanding. His reactions, instincts defensively created some turnovers. Good to get those two back and good to have them around.”
*Combining last week’s 36-point win vs. TCU and the 26-point margin vs. KSU, it is the first time OU has beaten conference opponents back-to-back by at least 25 points since 2002.
*OU goes for its third win a row when No. 9 Kansas comes to Lloyd Noble Center 11 a.m. Saturday. The Jayhawks edged the Sooners 63-59 two weeks ago in Lawrence.