BY Michael Kinney
NORMAN – The day Trae Young sat in in a classroom at Norman North last year and announced he was going to Oklahoma, it was for nights like Tuesday.
No. 5 Kansas rolling into Norman to take on the 12th ranked Sooners in front of a packed house at Lloyd Noble Center was something Young had envisioned growing up.
It finally came to fruition for Young Tuesday night. With a national audience watching, he led the Sooners to an 85-80 upset over the Jayhawks. His performance left KU coach Bill Self with nothing but rave reviews of the kid he once recruited.
“Kid played great,” Self said. “I mean he got 26 points on nine shots. That’s very impressive for a guard, and he was very under control and seemed to make the vast majority of the right plays for his team.”
While many expected Young to come in and hoist up 40 shots like he came close to doing in a loss to Oklahoma State Saturday. But the freshman sensation showed trusts his teammates, especially in crunch time.
With 2:13 left in the game, Young drained a pair of free throws to cut the Kansas lead down to 80-79. For the second time, OU intentionally fouled KU forward Udoka Azubulke. He missed both free throws and the Sooners got the rebound. He finished the night 1 of 7 from the stripe.
However, Young tried to get the ball to Khadeem Lattin under the basket, but it went off his hands and out of bounds.
After the Jayhawks Devonte’ Graham missed a 3-pointer, Young calmly drove into the lane and dished it out to Christian James, who was standing in the corner. He drilled the 3-pointer to put Oklahoma up 82-80.
Kansas came up empty again on the next possession and the Sooners got the ball and called a timeout with 35 seconds remaining.
After the timeout, Manek took a pass from Young and drilled a 3-pointer to give the Sooners a five-point advantage. That was enough to hold on and claim the win.
“It’s in Trae’s hands to make a read and decision and create,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “We did that all night, really. He made a good play to find Christian and Christian jumped in there and knocked it down. Brady did the same thing on the next possession. Two big shots.”
Young led all scorers with 26 points to go along with 9 assists.
“The way I played at OSU, I was overly aggressive at OSU,” Young said. “I think tonight, I managed the game a lot better. I got back to the way I was playing before last week and even before K-State. I managed the game a lot better and teammates did a great job of making plays, too.”
It was a slow start for the Sooners on offense. In the first 10 minutes of the first half, they shot only 36 percent from the field and were 1 of 4 from 3 point range.
The only thing that saved them is that the Jayhawks were just as inefficient. While they hovered around the 50 percent mark, it only translated to a 19-16 advantage.
One of the reasons Oklahoma was slow out of the gates was the defense Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham. He hounded Young where ever he went and ushered him into double teams when he tried to turn the corner and get into the lane.
However, this did allow other Sooners to get their offense going. James and Manek, The two combined for 20 points in the first half as Oklahoma held a 43-41 advantage at halftime.
Kansas tipped off the second half with a 14-4 run. Oklahoma settled down after a driving layup and 3-pointer from Young.
However, the Sooners had no answer for Svi Myhailiuk. After being held to 11 points in the first half, he exploded for 14 in a 12-minute span in the second.
Despite that, with 5 minutes left in the game, the Sooners found themselves down only 76-74.
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com