As Trae Young hit his third 3-pointer of the night, he pointed to the ground to let the world know where he shot it from, and then turned to the Lloyd Noble Center crowd with one message:
“I’m back. I’m back.”
The Trae Young Experience was alive and well once again inside the Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday. The star freshman was electric from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Young spent most of his night crossing defenders up and hitting his patented deep threes, finishing with 28 points on an efficient 7-of-10 shooting, including 6-of-9 from deep. The last 48 hours have seen Trae Young do something he has not done in a longtime: have fun.
“Yeah, that’s my main focus. My main focus is just playing and having fun,” Young smiled and said after his team’s win. “Enjoying this, enjoying this experience. I mean, the roller coaster we’ve been on, it’s definitely tough. But you got to have fun. That’s what we’re doing early on in the season, and we got to get back to doing that.”
Young was not alone against the Wildcats, either. The Sooners 86-77 win saw Rashard Odomes, Brady Manek, and Christian James hit three consecutive 3s on three consecutive possesions in the first half, followed up by another 3-pointer by Young on the very next possession. It looked like Oklahoma was pulling on the same string again, and it looked like it to Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber, too.
“It gave them confidence, there’s no doubt about it. … The last two games, it’s not a secret, they didn’t play well, they didn’t make shots. They seemed out of sync,” Weber said. “Yet they played well and we were still, I wouldn’t say we were right there but it never was where we weren’t in the game and a couple possessions, a couple plays here and there. We just never could get over the hump.”
But is Oklahoma back? The team that rose to No. 4 in the country this season after an 11-20 season a year ago? The team that was led by the assumed National and Big 12 Player of the Year who looked back to form against Kansas State?
“I mean, this is one game,” Young said. “(We) got to prepare like we did for (Kansas State) for a really good Baylor team—with Coach Drew, they’re rolling, they’re doing really well–so we just got to prepare like we did, prepare and compete like we did at practice, and just get ready for the next one.”
The Sooners have been reeling. They came into today’s game losers of their last six games, and lost nine of their last 11. It might be easy to assume that Oklahoma is in desperation mode, just as easy as it is to say they are back after an inspiring performance against Kansas State. For Oklahoma, it’s all about what’s next.
“We just wanted to win a game. We tried to focus on our next game,” Young said. “Winning the next one is all that matters. It’s on to Baylor. We’re not worried about Iowa State yet. We’re just on to our next game and focused on that.”
Heading into Tuesday night’s game in Waco, Texas, the Sooners will need to replicate how they played against Kansas State…and it has nothing to do with how many points they scored or the score on the scoreboard.
“I thought so, yeah. Again, you’re always wanting to do that,” Kruger said about the team having fun and playing with intensity. “Again, when you get off to a good start, make some shots early, it kind of picks everyone up. I thought defensively we were more active, more involved, more engaged, and we got to keep doing a better job on both ends.”