About 14,000 of the 15,000 people inside the Intrust Bank Arena were wearing yellow or black. A small section of Oklahoma fans sat right behind the Sooners’ bench, but you would not have known that they even existed. After an early 4-0 lead thanks to two dunks from Shaquille Morris and Rashard Kelly, the crowd made themselves known.
This young Oklahoma team responded to Wichita State and the crowd with a 10-2 run and took an early 10-6 lead. No panic or frustration, just a calm, cool, and collected run from a team that hadn’t been in that situation yet this season.
“First two possessions weren’t as exciting being down 4-0, and (they) dunked it a couple times” Oklahoma Head Coach Lon Kruger told reporters after the game. “Thought our guys handled it good and bounced back. Again, thought we had really good looks and good possessions especially”
Halfway through the first half, the game was going back and forth. The margin did not grow more than two possessions until 6:41 to go until halftime. At that point, Oklahoma had pushed their lead to seven with a 37-30 advantage. From there, Oklahoma closed the half on a 17-9 run sparked by two threes from freshmen Trae Young and Brady Manek to take a 54-39 lead into halftime.
The second half was all Oklahoma. After weathering another early Wichita State push that saw the Sooners lead dwindle down into single digits, their lead grew to 18 with 8:25 to go in the game. As Trae Young and Lon Kruger took the air out of the ball, the Shockers worst enemy moved from the team sitting across from them to the time that was up on the clock. With :40 seconds left in the game, it felt as if Wichita State had one final push. Instead, Christian James iced it away at the free throw line to secure Oklahoma’s biggest non-conference win in school history as they took down No. 3 Wichita State 91-83.
“Terrific battle, nothing different from what we expected.” Kruger said in his opening statement following the win. “No surprise, great crowd, but proud of our guys. Came out and battled and made some shots and made some plays for each other. Tough place to win so we feel extra good about that because of how good they are and how tough of a crowd it is.”
Different game, same story: Trae Young. The freshman was inserted into NBC’s Player Power Rankings as the top player in college basketball this week, and he proved that again today. His 29 points and 10 assists put him in elite company as he is the only other player in college basketball history to have 25 points and 10 assists against a Top 3 opponent per ESPN Stats & Info*. It was a second half he would like to forget, but his 21 points and seven assists in the first half put the country on notice…again:
The most exciting player right now in college hoops? Trae Young. Oklahoma frosh leads nation in scoring and is lighting it up against Wichita State right now. ESPN2.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) December 16, 2017
Trae Young got game!
— D’Angelo Russell (@Dloading) December 16, 2017
— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) December 16, 2017
Trae Young is the college Steph Curry
— Hoops Reference (@HoopsReference) December 16, 2017
Trae Young is a collegiate version of Stephen Curry.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 16, 2017
And no one took more notice than Gregg Marshall.
“Trae Young is not going to be rattled too often, he’s just too good,” Marshall said about the pressure he tried to put on in the second half. “He was as good as advertised…Everybody better be aware of what he can do.”
Today, Trae Young was not the only freshman to produce. Brady Manek has been slowly becoming more comfortable as this season has gone on, and it came together with a 21-point performance on 5/13 shooting behind the arc. None of those points were bigger than a three-pointer late in the second half as Wichita State tried to make a push, and for Manek, no shot has been bigger than that one this season.
“That shot in particular, I was kind of cold for awhile from three and they had pressure on us,” Manek said. “It was a great moment to hit a big shot like that.”
“That was a big shot,” Young smiled and said right after.
The win over No. 3 Wichita State is Oklahoma’s second straight over a ranked opponent and first over a top three opponent on the road since 1949. For a team that is coming off an 11-20 season, many were cautious to peg them as an NCAA Tournament team even with Trae Young being added to their roster. Instead, a statement was made: this young Oklahoma team has arrived on the college basketball scene.
*Jonny Flynn of Syracuse did it in 2009 against Connecticut, but it took him 6 overtimes to do.