COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Rashard Odomes and Christian James scored 20 points apiece, Kristian Doolittle had 19 points and matched a career-high with 15 rebounds and No. 9 seed Oklahoma blitzed Mississippi from the start in a 95-72 victory Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
It was a start more often seen by Oklahoma’s high-octane football team. The Sooners (20-13) scored on eight of their first nine possessions — the only miss was an alley-oop — and led 12-0 less than three minutes in.
Oklahoma didn’t let up. The Sooners led by 17 at halftime and their 95 points were the most this season.
The Sooners weren’t expected to be in the tournament after losing one-and-done phenom Trae Young, now playing for the Atlanta Hawks. They lost five in a row in the middle of the season, went 4-8 in their final 12 games and lost the Big 12 Tournament opener to 15-20 West Virginia.
But Oklahoma shot 58 percent (34 of 59), their second-best mark all season.
Odomes went 8 of 10 in 22 minutes and left the game for good after picking up his fourth foul with 13:37 remaining. Brady Manek added 18 for the Sooners.
The Rebels (20-13) have looked like a tired team for more than a month, and eight days off didn’t appear to help. Ole Miss lost five of its last six and let four of those opponents shoot better than 50 percent.
Terrence Davis led Ole Miss with 17 points.
Oklahoma: The Sooners scored 44 of their points in the paint, which combined with 6 of 13 shooting on 3-pointers means they can play with anyone the rest of the way. The key to Friday’s victory may have been Manek. Oklahoma outscored Ole Miss by 33 points when the 6-foot-9 senior was on the floor. He shot 7 of 9 and was 2 of 3 on 3-pointers.
Mississippi: The Rebels were picked to finish last in the Southeast Conference after coach Kermit Davis took over a team that went 12-20 in Andy Kennedy’s final season. A run to the NCAA Tournament — only Ole Miss’ third appearance in the last 17 years — is a surprisingly good season, even if it did end in a 23-point loss.
Oklahoma: The Sooners advance to play the winner of No. 1 Virginia and No. 16 Gardner-Webb on Sunday.
Mississippi: Season is over.