Oklahoma basketball: What to know about OU’s 5th win of season

PORTLAND, OR - NOVEMBER 26: Trae Young /

All is looking well with the 2017-18 edition of men’s Oklahoma basketball.

The Sooners recorded win number five on the young season on Thursday night, defeating North Texas, out of Conference USA, 82-72 at Lloyd Noble Center.

Oklahoma is 5-1 through the early going and has scored at least 80 points in all six of its games. OU exceeded 80 points 11 times all of last season. This is the sixth season in head coach Lon Kruger’s seven at Oklahoma that the Sooners have begun the season with a record of 5-1 or better.

OU began the season the same way a year ago, going 5-1 through the first six games, but that was as good as it would get the rest of the way. The Sooners fell off the cliff beginning with game number seven, losing 16 of its next 19 games on the way to an 11-20 season finish and just 5-13 in the Big 12.

What’s dramatically different about this year’s Oklahoma team, however, is their offensive production, namely their ability to find open shooters and knock down shots.The difference can be summed up in two words: Trae Young.

OU knew it had something good going when Young elected to stay home and play for the Sooners, spurning Kansas, one of college basketball’s blue bloods, in the process. What the five-star, former McDonald’s All-American has brought to Oklahoma basketball so far in the new season is well beyond just “good.” It belongs in the Superstar category, and, yes, with a capital “S.”

Oklahoma Sooners Basketball
Oklahoma Sooners Basketball /

Oklahoma Sooners Basketball

The former Norman North High star has exceeded 30 points in each of his last three games and leads the nation in scoring, averaging 28.8 points a game. Equally laudable is his 8.8 assists and 2.3 steals per-game average. He is third in the nation in the assists category.

Not only has Young been a scoring machine in the early going of the 2017-18 season, but he is making everyone around him better because of his tremendous court vision and ability to get the ball into the hands of open players with better chances to score.

Two other Sooners are averaging in double figures through six games: senior Khadeem Lattin is scoring at a 12.3 clip in the early going and junior Christian James is averaging 11.5.

Oklahoma is averaging 94.0 points per game, sixth best in the country, but they also give up a lot of points, which sounds like the Sooner football team. OU is last in the Big 12, giving up 78.8 points a game, and opponents are  shooting 41.0 percent against the Sooners.

In Oklahoma’s win over North Texas, Young scored 32 points, 21 of those coming after halftime. He also delivered 10 assists. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Sooner star is just the second player in the 21-year history of the Big 12 to reach the 30-point level and record 10 assists in a game.

The Sooners shot 54.2 percent for the game (the bad news is that North Texas shot 50.0 percent as a team) and committed just seven turnovers. On the defensive end, they converted 14 North Texas turnovers into 20 points.

The Sooners play six more times in the month of December, including back-to-back road games against USC, No. 14 in this week’s Associated Press Poll, and No. 8 Wichita State. On Dec. 22, OU hosts Northwestern, which began the season at No. 19 in the AP Top 25 but is currently unranked.

Big 12 play begins the weekend of Dec. 30. OU’s first conference game is on the road at TCU, currently No, 23 in the country, according to AP voters.

Next up for Oklahoma is a home game against another team from Conference USA, the University of Texas-San Antonio, on Monday. UTSA is coached by Steve Henson, former Oklahoma basketball assistant and longtime colleague of Lon Kruger. Henson was with Kruger at OU for five seasons before leaving in 2016 to take his first head-coaching job at UTSA.

The month of December will give us a much clearer picture of where this Oklahoma team is in its development and what we can expect heading into the always difficult Big 12 schedule.

One thing we already know for sure is that Trae Young is the real deal, and the rest of the Big 12 find that out in short order.