For the first time this season, Oklahoma got their wish as more than 9,000 fans made their way to Lloyd Noble Center to see this new, exciting team. The fans that finally made it down to Norman got their wish, too–the Sooners put on a show.
“Obviously, really sharp,” Oklahoma Head Coach Lon Kruger said about his team’s performance in 104-78 blowout of Northwestern. “Guys (were) moving the ball (and) making shots. Made a really, really good Northwestern club look a little bit less for this first 20 minutes especially. But happy for the guys, proud of the guys.”
At some point this season, Trae Young won’t be the story of a game. He will not be the leading scorer and will turn the ball over more than usual. He won’t have a double-double with assists and points or even lead the team in assists. But for tonight, Young continued to be the story. The star freshman had 25 points and 10 assists in the first half against Northwestern. It did not take him more than a half to become the only other Oklahoma player to have 20 or more points and 10 or more assists in ten consecutive games. Do not forget: Trae Young has played in 11 games.
“It’s definitely fun. I mean, when you’re winning, that’s the main thing,” Young said with a small grin when talking about his team’s performances in 10-1 start. “This is fun. The crowd is continuing to grow. They played a huge, huge role tonight. The way we jumped out right out of the gates, you can just tell, this is the best time to be a Sooner.”
The voices of the defeated have started to pile up for Young. Northwestern Head Coach Chris Collins was no different. Collins spent 14 seasons as an assistant at Duke from 2000-2013 and got to see Kyrie Irving up close. After tonight’s game, he said Irving had a maturity to his game at Duke that made him “look like a veteran” in his freshman season. Collins then compared his maturity to that of Trae Young’s, and broke down the Oklahoma freshman’s game.
“He’s a special, special talent,” Collins said. “He knows what he’s doing. He plays at his pace. He knows where he wants to go. He looks like he loves to play. He looks like really enjoys playing with these guys. It’s really fun to watch, it’s not fun to have to play against.”
As this season goes on, the 11-20 season from a year ago continues to be put on the back burner. Christian James was on that team and at the forefront of the post-Buddy Hield Era. He was supposed to be that guy to step-in and take that role. Instead, James wasn’t. He struggled.
But on this night, Christian James looked like the guy many had expected him to be with 19 points on 6/8 shooting overall and 5/6 from three. So when you sit at your post-game press conference after regaining that lost confidence, you get to smile. For James, his grin could not have been bigger.
“We’re getting back to how it should be,” James said with that smile. “Being on that Final Four team and just seeing the crowd and how much they effect the games…and I feel like we are getting back to that point.”
The Sooners have surged into the AP Top 25 rankings and are expected to continue to rise after the rout of Northwestern. With Big 12 play looming as the conference opener is eight days away, this Oklahoma team didn’t sound stressed. Instead, they’re just having fun.