Trae Young put on a Stephen Curry-esque show in the first half vs. Wichita State on Saturday. His supporting cast stepped up when Young looked more mortal in the second half.
The result was an impressive road victory for an Oklahoma team that appears poised to enter the AP Top 25 on Monday and to emerge as one of Kansas’ top Big 12 challengers over the next couple months.
Seldom was the outcome in doubt during the second half of the Sooners’ 91-83 upset of third-ranked Wichita State. Oklahoma stormed to a 15-point halftime lead and never allowed the Shockers to get any closer than six the rest of the game.
The hero of the game for the Sooners was the skilled freshman guard who has elevated his team all season with his scoring and passing exploits. Young served as the catalyst for the Sooners’ 54-point first half by calling his own number when Wichita State gave him a sliver of space or setting up open teammates with pinpoint passes when the Shockers blitzed ball screens and forced the ball out of his hands.
Twenty-one of Young’s 29 points came in the first half, as did seven of his 10 assists. He had a hand in Oklahoma’s first 12 field goals, whether via scoring or assist.
Young’s brilliant first half is the apex of a superb opening month from a freshman who has rapidly climbed NBA draft boards and inserted himself into college basketball’s national player of the year race. The dynamic 6-foot-2 point guard leads the nation in scoring at 28.8 points per game and is third in Division I at 8.8 assists per game.
While Young cooled off in the second half as Wichita State threw body after body at him, his court vision and ability to draw multiple defenders made the game easier for his teammates. Spot-up shooters Brady Manek and Kameron McGusty combined for nine threes and shot-blocking specialist Jamuni McNeace turned in a strong defensive performance as Oklahoma earned its biggest win of the season.
That Oklahoma is 8-1 with victories over USC, Oregon and Wichita State is a testament mostly to Young’s impact. Many of this year’s Sooners were also rotation players a year ago when the team lost 20 games and finished a game out of last place in the Big 12.
When Big 12 play begins this season, Oklahoma will be among the teams with aspirations of ending Kansas’ 13-year reign atop the Big 12. The Sooners have an explosive offense, enviable depth and a freshman who just might be the nation’s most skilled offensive player.
On Saturday afternoon, facing one of the nation’s top teams in one of college basketball’s most hostile arenas, Young added to his legend.
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