It can be easy to forget that Oklahoma’s Trae Young has only been standing at college basketball’s center stage for a few weeks. Another spellbinding performance from the freshman on Saturday served notice that he is not one to wilt in the spotlight. His star is still on the rise.
Young scored 29 points and added 10 assists in leading his Sooners to a 91-83 upset of No. 3 Wichita State in Wichita. Young wasted no time in dispelling the notion that the Shockers defense might be stout enough to slow him down or slow his ascent to the top of the Wooden Award list. If anything, he continues to accelerate.
The freshman from Norman North High School either scored or assisted every basket Oklahoma scored in the first 11-plus minutes in a hostile atmosphere. By the time Oklahoma (8-1) scored without Young, the Sooners had built an eight-point lead and were on their way to a victory that should launch them into next week’s Top 25 rankings. He had 21 points and seven assists — and that was at halftime.
A week ago the Sooners’ high-flying offense raced away from No. 25 USC before letting the Trojans make things interesting in the closing minutes. Wichita State made a run in the final eight minutes as well, but Young and his teammates were able to keep them at enough of a distance to never make a serious comeback threat.
Young’s final stat line was right on pace with the 28.8 points (No. 1 in the nation) and 8.8 assists (No. 3) he was averaging through his first eight games of college basketball. The scary part for the rest of the Big 12 and whoever else finds themselves in Oklahoma’s path is that Young and his teammates are growing stronger.
The rookie point guard’s array of abilities has unfolded with each new game in the past several weeks. His knack for finding teammates in good spots wasn’t in question heading into Saturday’s game, but a handful of floor-length passes showed how expansive his vision can be.
Trae Young breaks down his 29-point performance in Oklahoma’s victory over Wichita State.
He also has shooters who can take advantage of those looks. Fellow freshman Brady Manek had the best performance of his career on a big stage with 21 points. Manek shot 50 percent from the field and knocked down five 3-pointers, including a couple big ones to take the wind out of a Shockers run in the second half.
When Oklahoma begins Big 12 play two weeks from now it should do so as a legitimate threat to Kansas and the rest of the league’s championship hopefuls. The Sooners have depth, and as long as Young continues his rise they might have the best player in college basketball. That’s a title that, for now at least, he can claim with a greater degree of confidence thanks to another memorable, entertaining performance just one full month into his college career.