NORMAN — Making his first start in nearly a month, Alondes Williams struggled to find his touch on offense against West Virginia.
Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger plugged the first-year Sooner into the starting lineup following his recent three-game stretch of scoring in double figures off the bench.
Williams failed to score any against West Virginia, while the starter he replaced, De’Vion Harmon, posted seven points on 3-of-4 shooting.
“Seems like whoever's coming off the bench is gonna give us a good pop,” Kruger said after the Sooners’ 69-59 win over West Virginia.
Kruger might be onto something.
Harmon and Williams have flipped roles before. Harmon, a true freshman, began the season as one of OU’s primary starting guards alongside junior Austin Reaves and sophomore Jamal Bieniemy. Williams, who transferred from Triton College to to OU over the offseason, then replaced Harmon 10 games into the season.
Williams started five-consecutive times before Harmon earned his starting role back. But Williams’ recent string of productive nights helped him win a starting role again.
Williams is averaging 6.3 points per game and shooting 43.7 percent from the floor this season. As a starter, Williams is averaging 3.4 points a contest and making 29 percent of his shots.
Off the bench? Williams is scoring 7.6 points per game and netting 48.4 percent of his field-goal attempts.
For Harmon, his nightly averages don’t differ as much whether he’s starting or not.
He’s scoring 7.6 points on average. That number falls to 7.5 points per game as a starter and 7.8 off the bench.
The biggest different for Harmon is field-goal shooting percentage. He’s made 37.6 percent of his shots this season, which drops to 34.4 percent of his shots as a starter. As a reserve, Harmon is shooting 50.0 percent from the floor.
Asked of why Harmon and Williams are seeing more success off the bench, Kruger said, “It’s hard to say. Individually, some people feel more comfortable coming off the bench. Others feel more comfortable starting.
“With those two, it seems like whoever is coming off the bench has been more productive. We need them both to be productive — the guys starting and the guy coming off the bench.”
The Sooners have yet to be burned by Kruger’s lineup changes. When OU opted for Williams in place of Harmon the first time, the Sooners went on a four-game winning streak.
This second time around, the Sooners beat the No. 13 team in the country ahead of a huge final stretch of their 2019-20 season.
And despite his cold outing against the Mountaineers, Williams feels more confident in his role and the team.
“We’re being more as one,” he said.
Harmon also trusts in his team, which has shown plenty of fight over the last few weeks.
Finishing games has sometimes eluded OU but Harmon seems confident in the Sooners’ ability when locked in for 40 minutes, no matter who’s on the floor.
“You have to put two halves together,” Harmon said. “When we do that, we usually come out on top. When we don't, probably not.
“That goes for every team. It's hard to turn it on and turn it off. You have to always have that switch on. You have that switch on, you are going to give yourself an opportunity to win every night.”
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Iowa State at Oklahoma
Time/Place: 8 p.m. | Lloyd Noble Center
Records/Rankings: OU (15-8, 4-5 Big 12); Iowa State (10-13, 3-7 Big 12)
OU starters: G 24 Jamal Bieniemy (6-5, So./5.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg); G 15 Alondes Williams (6-5, Jr./6.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G 12 Austin Reaves (6-5, Jr./14.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F 0 Kristian Doolittle (6-7, Sr./14.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg); F 35 Brady Manek (6-9, So./15.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
Iowa State starters: G 11 Prentiss Nixon (6-2, Sr./8.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg); G 3 Tre Jackson (6-1, Fr./3.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg); G 45 Rasir Bolton (6-3, So./15.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg); F 12 Michael Jacobson (6-9, Sr./6.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg); F 33 Solomon Young (6-8, Jr./9.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Series: OU leads 116-91
Radio: KRXO 107.7 FM