Hartloff

Claremore graduate and Pitt State freshman Layton Hartloff played nine minutes, grabbed three defensive rebounds and went 0-for-2 from 3-point land against the Sooners. Hartloff, the son of Mandi and Roy Hartloff, is a communications major at PSU. He was an all-stater for the Zebras as a senior, and as a junior led Claremore to a school-record 26-3 mark and a trip to the state championship game two years ago.

NORMAN — In transition, Oklahoma guard Miles Reynolds put his head down and went to the basket, brushing aside Pittsburg State guard Marchel Cherry for a layup.

As Cherry got up off the Lloyd Noble Center court, Reynolds slapped his bicep. He wasn't done. On the other end, as he was getting set to guard a different Gorilla, Reynolds got Cherry's attention and did it again. It seemed like a message, not just to Pittsburg State, which trailed by 31 with about 12 minutes left in OU's final preseason exhibition, but to everyone who thinks the Sooners are going to be pushovers this season.

“I saw the slightest gap and before the game, coach was emphasizing attack in transition,” Reynolds said. “It just happened the guy was under me, and it probably should have been an 'And 1,' but we were just having some fun.”

Reynolds and the Sooners bullied Pittsburg State in Thursday's 92-58 preseason exhibition win, especially on the glass. Their 64 rebounds were more than in any real game in the last 22 years, and 20 came on the offensive end. The Sooners protected their own goal, swiping away eight shots while only committing 11 fouls. Fans had been waiting to see what the team's strength would be in the post-Trae Young era. Maybe, OU's physicality might be its bedrock.

“We just wanted to really emphasize being aggressive,” Reynolds said.

Of course, it's hard to make a fair evaluation.

Pittsburg State finished 17-13 last season in the Division II MIAA, and the Gorillas' starting lineup was giving up size at every position. OU held the visitors to 24.3 percent shooting, including 9 of 37 on 3-pointers, and all 12 of the Sooners in the regular rotation made a field goal as coach Lon Kruger frequently fiddled with the lineup.

Center Jamuni McNeace led OU with 15 points and five blocks. Forward Brady Manek had a double-double, scoring 12 points while hitting 3 of 4 3-pointers and grabbing 13 rebounds. Reynolds came off the bench to tally 11 points and Kristian Doolittle, Jamal Bieniemy, Hannes Polla and Matt Freeman each added eight.

But OU didn't get a lot of open looks from the outside.

It took just six 3-pointers in the second half, and overall, saw just three uncontested looks from behind the arc. OU hit one of those, while also sinking just one of their nine contested attempts.

The spacing wasn't like last year, with Young drawing a crowd to the paint before flipping it to a wide open teammate. OU made up for that with second-chance points around the rim, and going forward that might have to be the formula for offensive success.

“We've just been doing that in practice so much,” McNeace said. “We've been competing so hard that it just came natural.”

The season opener, at UT-Rio Grand Valley on Nov. 9, is still more than a week away, and Thursday's exhibition, with constant substitutions against a lackluster foe, wasn't going to provide a good barometer regardless of how it went.

But OU's physicality edge seemed like more than just a mirage against an overmatched opponent. With the oldest team in the Big 12, averaging 21.1 years across the roster, the Sooners might find their strength a focal point this season.