Sooners Start Hot, Finish Hotter In 108-69 Win Over Ball State
Oklahoma surpassed the triple-digit mark for the second straight game to start the season. The last time an Oklahoma team did that? Billy Tubbs’ 1989-1990 team. This 2017-2018 team is playing at an extremely fast pace to start the season. They now account for two of Lon Kruger’s six games over the century mark during his tenure at Oklahoma. Even further, the 11-20 2016-2017 team did not reach triple digits a single time. However, it was the team’s defensive performance against a good Ball State team that head coach Lon Kruger pointed to first.
“I thought we set a really nice tone defensively early,” Lon Kruger said in his opening statement following his team’s win. “Rashard picking up the ball early really established (the defense). The other guys fell in line with that on the defensive end and kept them a little bit uncomfortable for the most part.”
The new offensive pace is led by freshman phenom Trae Young. Young has now recorded a double-double in his first two collegiate games. Tonight, he tied an Oklahoma freshman record with 13 assists. To go along with those 13 assists, Young showcased his deep three point range while eclipsing the 20-point mark for the first time in his career. He bounced back from a 4/13 shooting night in the season opener with 22 points on 7/15 shooting, going 5/10 from three.
“I felt a lot better,” Young said about his shooting performance. “Just like I said, that first one, happy that one is out of the way. (I) just got in a rhythm, got a good warm-up. Did the same routine I always do, and I just shot better tonight so that was good.”
Young has been his biggest critic to this point. After the Texas-Arlington exhibition game, the freshman said he played “awful” because of his seven turnovers. After recording a double-double in his debut, Young mentioned his poor shooting night and three turnovers. Tonight, the freshman was all smiles.
“That’s just how I play. I go out and whatever the team needs from me that night I’m going to do,” Young said about his performance. “I come out aggressive, but I also come out to find everybody and make sure everybody gets a good feel from the beginning of the game, and that just carries on to my game.”
Oklahoma now turns their focus to Phil Knight’s 80th Birthday Invitational next week. The Sooners have played solid basketball through two games, but have to wait eight days before playing in Portland. It is a peculiar time for a layoff, but Kruger and his crew are looking forward to get better through practice.
“It’s a great opportunity to get better,” Kruger said. “The question (is) about whether we get better in-between games. Sometimes with a younger team, you don’t quite understand that yet, and that’s what these guys sitting here have got to really focus on. You can’t wait until next week to play again, we’ve got to get better between games. I think that’s where a mature team distinguishes themselves from others is that it is not game-to-game, but it is getting better between games.”
The Sooners are on the side of the bracket with reigning National Champion North Carolina. They will face off against Arkansas first, and have the potential to play the Tar Heels, Michigan State, Oregon, or Connecticut. For a young Oklahoma team, the experience could loom large for the rest of the season.
“It is a great opportunity for us to play against good competition,” Freshman Brady Manek said. “Some learning experience before we hit the Big 12 games later in the season.
“It’s going to be fun,” Trae Young said with a more vibrant tone. “Like he said, we’re playing some really good teams. Right out of the gate we’re playing Arkansas. From then on, it’s a battle every night. So it’s going to be fun. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Oklahoma will begin the PK80 Invitational on Thanksgiving Day at 4:00 PM CT. The Sooners will take on an Arkansas team that is also averaging an absurd amount of points with 98.0 points per game through their first two games. The Razorbacks will be another big test for a Sooners team that is looking to build on two impressive games to start the 2017-2018 season.