NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger doesn't expect his Sooners to reach last year's Final Four-level status immediately with so many new faces. That's why he's fine with the baby steps they took on Tuesday. Freshman Kristian Doolittle scored 17 points to help Oklahoma defeat Northern Colorado 87-66.
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger doesn't expect his Sooners to reach last year's Final Four-level status immediately with so many new faces.
That's why he's fine with the baby steps they took on Tuesday. Freshman Kristian Doolittle scored 17 points to help Oklahoma defeat Northern Colorado 87-66.
The young Sooners have three new starters, and four freshmen played at least 10 minutes against the Bears.
"There's not an unrealistic expectation from my perspective," Kruger said. "We've got a lot of work to do. We need a lot of reps. These games are all great for us. Every time these guys get on the floor and get a little more comfortable and identify their role in a game situation, it's huge for us."
Doolittle did his damage on 7-for-8 shooting and added five rebounds in just 18 minutes off the bench. He scored 11 points in the second half to help the Sooners pull away.
Jordan Woodard had 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. He didn't know he was so close to a triple-double.
"I just got some rebounds," he said. "I was just trying to be aggressive. Coach wanted everybody to stay in attack mode."
Christian James added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Sooners (5-1), who shot 54 percent from the field.
Jordan Davis had 15 points and seven assists, DJ Miles scored 11 points and Chaz Glotta added 10 points for Northern Colorado (2-5).
Oklahoma led 40-34 at halftime behind seven points, six rebounds and four assists from Woodard. Northern Colorado scored the first five points of the second half to cut Oklahoma's lead to 40-39, but the Sooners finally got things going. A technical foul against Northern Colorado coach Jeff Linder helped spark the Sooners to a 10-point lead with about nine minutes to play. Woodard sent the fans to the exits when he made a circus layup and was fouled to put the Sooners up 79-61 with about three minutes to go.
The Sooners outrebounded Northern Colorado 26-16 in the second half, and the Bears committed 15 turnovers overall.
"With their length and athleticism, they can make a few more mistakes than we can and kind of make up for it," Linder said.
Northern Colorado: The Bears were battle tested with losses to traditionally strong programs Butler, Santa Clara, Arizona and Bucknell. They hung tough with the Sooners until the final minutes, and may be a handful for teams in the Big Sky Conference.
"These guys, for being such a young team, and a new coaching staff, they have not shown one ounce of fear," Linder said.
Oklahoma: The Sooners struggled against a non-power five conference opponent for the second straight game — they defeated Abilene Christian 72-64 last Friday.
Oklahoma center Khadeem Lattin had five blocks and three steals to go with 10 points. He spearheaded a defense that allowed just 36.6 percent shooting.
"He affected a lot of things on the defensive end," Kruger said.
Matt Freeman, a freshman from New Zealand, got his first start in Doolittle's place. He didn't score and took just two shots in 13 minutes.
Doolittle said not starting for the first time this season affected him.
"To say the least, but I didn't take it personally," he said. "I have all the faith in the world in Matt to go out there and do a great job."
Northern Colorado hosts Northern New Mexico on Saturday.
Oklahoma travels to No. 17 Wisconsin on Saturday. The Sooners will have their best chance to shake off their sluggish play and show they haven't fallen off too much since Buddy Hield left for the NBA.
"Good challenge there," Kruger said. "Kohl Center is a tough place to play. A top-ranked team — we respect that. We've got to go in there and value the ball and compete like crazy on the boards and defensively."
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