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Sooners open foreign tour with 133-91 win

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The University of Oklahoma men’s basketball team opened its foreign tour with a 133-91 win over New Zealand Select on Sunday in Auckland, New Zealand. The Sooners were paced by a pair of freshmen with guard Trae Young racking up 21 points and four assists and forward Brady Manek adding 17 points.

The matchup in New Zealand was especially meaningful for redshirt sophomore forward Matt Freeman, who grew up in Auckland and had many family members and friends in attendance. Freeman posted eight points and a pair of rebounds.

“It was really special,” said Freeman. “From the moment the game started it just felt so at home. It was really emotional and meaningful for me that I got to play in front of my family and against guys I used to play with in front of pretty much my whole family…I had a lot of people come out who probably will never be able to make it over to Oklahoma and see us play over there. It was emotional, but a really special moment for me.”

The Kiwi club took an early 14-2 lead before OU caught up in the remainder of the first quarter. The Sooners built a 66-55 halftime lead behind 15 first-half points on 6-of-8 points from Manek.

OU upped its defensive intensity in the second half, holding its opponent to .419 field goal shooting after halftime (New Zealand Select shot .596 from the field in the first half). The improved defense led to the Sooners outscoring New Zealand Select 67-36 in the second half.

“Always good to get a first game under your belt,” said head coach Lon Kruger. “Opened the ball game not transferring very well from practice to a game situation, but we learned a lot from it and I think overall from the 40 minutes there was progress from throughout the game. Defensively, obviously a long way to go. Offensively, really shared the ball well and made good plays for each other.”

Five Sooners scored in double figures, including senior Khadeem Lattin, who finished the night with 16 points, seven rebounds and five steals.

“Game one was exciting,” said Lattin. “In the first half we didn’t quite play defense like we wanted to, didn’t do a lot of the things that we had practiced. In the second half we went to the locker room and decided that giving up 55 points (in a half) was just too much and had to do something. We came out with an intensity level that was way higher and had more fun because of that.”

Oklahoma’s second of four international contests will be Wednesday at 4:30 a.m. CT against the Sutherland Sharks in Sydney, Australia. The game will be streamed on Facebook Live (Facebook.com/OUMensBasketball).

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