Justin Bean grew up just down the road from the Oklahoma campus.
Now, Bean will be part of the biggest matchup of the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Invitational when his Utah State team takes on Oklahoma (4-0) on Sunday in the title game.
During Utah State’s 3-1 start, Bean has made the Aggies go, averaging 24 points and 12.5 rebounds a game.
After back-to-back 30-plus-point efforts, Bean scored 17 in Utah State’s 85-58 semifinal win over New Mexico State on Friday.
Bean has been dominant at times, and so has Tanner Groves of the Sooners.
That’s why Oklahoma coach Porter Moser zeroed in on Groves after he was hired in the offseason — he was faced with the need to quickly rebuild the roster if Oklahoma was to compete quickly during Moser’s tenure.
The 6-foot-10 Groves is averaging 18 points per game, including a season-high 24 in Friday’s 87-63 semifinal win over Indiana State. The Eastern Washington transfer is shooting 61.7 percent from the floor this season.
The Sooners are shooting 54.4 percent from the field, topping the 50 percent mark in all four games.
Moser attributes his team’s offensive success to ball movement. Of the Sooners 129 made shots so far, 74 have been assisted.
“(We’re) just staying with it and making the extra pass,” Moser said. “We have a lot of different guys that can shoot it … (We’re) just not dwelling on a miss.”
Oklahoma also has excelled on perimeter defense, holding opponents to just 25.5 percent shooting from 3-point territory.
But the Sooners have shown some vulnerability defensively with size.
East Carolina’s length helped put Oklahoma into a tight game in the tournament opener, with the Pirates shooting 62.5 percent from inside the arc.
Utah State’s front line of 6-foot-7 Bean and 6-foot-10 Brandon Horvath could challenge the Sooners. Horvath is averaging 15.8 points per game.
In the Aggies’ semifinal win, Rylan Jones led Utah State with 19 points.
“This guy right here was tremendous again and controlled the game in a lot of ways,” Aggies coach Ryan Odom said of Jones.
Jones is averaging 14.5 points and 4.8 assists per game.
–Field Level Media