Christian James scored a career-high 29 points to lead visiting Oklahoma to a season-opening 91-76 win over Texas Rio Grande Valley on Friday night in the first collegiate basketball game at Bert Ogden Arena.
After Trae Young left for the NBA draft, where he was the fifth overall pick after just one season, James has been asked to take on much more of the scoring load for this year’s Sooners after averaging 11.9 points as a junior.
James was 9 of 17 from the field, hitting four 3-pointers.
The Sooners shot 50.9 percent from the field and went 22-for-31 at the free-throw line.
Oklahoma got off to a hot offensive start against the Vaqueros, hitting four 3-pointers in the first 3:21.
Aaron Calixte, one of two graduate transfers on the Sooners roster, added 15 points for Oklahoma. Sophomore Brady Manek had his first career double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Lesley Varner Jr. led UTRGV with 16 points off the bench, making all but one of his eight shots from the field. Tyson Smith added 14.
Oklahoma never trailed after the teams traded baskets through the first two minutes of the game.
The game was the return to Edinburg, Texas, for Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger.
Kruger’s head coaching career began at the school, then known as Texas-Pan American, from 1982-86.
Since Kruger left, the Vaqueros have not had a season as successful as Kruger’s last one, when his team went 20-8.
Thursday night, Kruger was inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame.
The game came about two years ago when the school hired then-Oklahoma assistant Lew Hill to take over the program. Hill helped several current Sooners to Norman, including James, Jamuni McNeace and Rashard Odomes.
The Sooners take on another team coached by a former Kruger assistant when they face Steve Henson’s Texas-San Antonio squad Monday.
Oklahoma is one of only two major conference teams — North Carolina is the other — to start this season with two true road games.
—Field Level Media