Mean Green Provide Good Competition, But Oklahoma Eventually Took Control In 82-72 Win
It was just another mid-week game for Oklahoma–the crowd was relaxed, the game started off sloppy, and an inferior opponent ran up-and-down with the Sooners for as long as they could.
Unlike most mid-week games, it felt like the Mean Green were behind by more than double-digits when they weren’t. There was a hump in this game that they had trouble getting over. North Texas took small leads for small portions of time, but Trae Young and his teammates answered their runs time and time again. It was like clockwork: here comes Oklahoma, here comes North Texas, here comes Oklahoma. The Mean Green did not allow the lead to grow to double-digits until late in the second half, even pushing their deficit to one with eight minutes left to go in the game.
Ultimately, North Texas forced the Sooners to play a much different style of game than what they are used to. They were taking multiple shots in the second half with the shot clock under ten seconds, which is a complete 180 from what the Sooners have played to this point. How tough is it to play good defense for 20-seconds or longer just for the other team to score?
“It’s tough, yeah. It can break your spirit a little bit defensively,” Lon Kruger told reporters following his team’s 82-72 win. “You are working and doing a pretty good job for 25 seconds and then they throw in a tough shot.”
However, the story of the game was Trae Young’s brilliance again. With only 11 points at halftime, the freshman looked to finally be coming back down to earth…which could not have been any further from the case. Young finished with 32 points on 10/18 shooting from the floor (6/11 from three) and 10 assists for his third double-double of his early career. After his performance tonight, the freshman is now averaging 28.8 points a game with 8.8 assists. Satisfying numbers, right? Not according to Young himself.
“No, I haven’t,” he said emphatically about meeting his expectations thus far. “I had three turnovers tonight. That’s not good. I don’t feel like I’ve played my best yet. I feel like I’ve played ok, but not my best.”
Late in the second half, Trae Young threw a behind-the-back pass to Christian James that caused an uproar inside the Lloyd Noble Center for the first time this season. The crowd got on its feet and maintained their yelling until North Texas had to take a timeout. It was unusual, but the crowd for a mid-week game against North Texas was plentiful and provided some late energy that Oklahoma was able to use to seal the game.
“The crowd really got into it in that second half, and I feel like that was a big pull for us,” Young said. “I can’t wait for it to get even louder. They did a great job coming out supporting tonight, and I’m looking forward to seeing them Monday.”
“Yeah, it was exciting,” Khadeem Lattin said about the dunk and crowd reaction giving him flashbacks to the years before 2016-2017. “It’s just been a real exciting, electric feel in the LNC as of recently. I mean, we’re just going to carry that momentum with us.”
The Sooners moved to 5-1 after tonight’s win over North Texas. Next up, Oklahoma will be seeing a familiar face, but not a familiar foe. Steve Henson, who was a major part of Oklahoma’s Final Four run in 2016, took the UTSA job following that season. The Roadrunners have struggled in the early part of 2017, but will provide another test for a young Sooners team before they travel to Los Angeles to play USC.