Oklahoma basketball: Sooners hold on to edge No. 25 USC


Is the 2017-18 edition of Oklahoma basketball as much improved as it has appeared one month into the new season? Check that box “yes.”

The Sooners were 6-1 going into Friday’s late-night game in Los Angeles against top-25 ranked USC as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. This was going to be a legitimate test, on the road and against OU’s first ranked opponent of the young season.

For a good portion of the game, it appeared Oklahoma was the ranked team. Early in the second half, the Sooners opened up an 18-point advantage, and it looked every bit that they were going to run away and hide from the host team from Southern California.

The Sooners began both halves with a flurry of three-pointers. Five of their first six baskets in the second half were treys, as they widened a 12-point halftime margin to 59-41 a little over three minutes into the second half.

Oklahoma shot a red-hot 48 percent from behind the three-point line for the game, launching 31 treys and connecting on 15 of them. Junior Christian James made a career-high five of six three-point attempts on his way to a 19-point performance.

For the eighth consecutive game, the Sooners were led in the scoring column by freshman Trae Young, who scored 29 along with nine assists. Young, the nation’s leading scoring, has tallied 28 or more points in his last six games.

Four of the five USC starters reached double figures, led by Elijah Stewart’s 23 points.

Oklahoma led the game from wire to wire, although USC fought back to within four at several points late in the second half. Thanks to four missed free throws by Oklahoma with under a minute to go, USC actually had a chance to win the game in the final seconds, but a shot from half court by the Trojans’ Jordan McLaughlin fell short as the buzzer sounded.

Oklahoma dealt USC its third consecutive loss after beginning the season with four consecutive victories. It was a big confidence-boosting win for coach Lon Kruger’s Sooners. An even bigger challenge looms seven days out when OU tips it off against No. 6 Wichita State next Saturday in Wichita, Kansas.

What else you should know about the OU victory over USC:

  • Freshman Brady Manek was Oklahoma’s third leading scorer in the game. He finished with 15 points, but missed two critical free throws at the very end of the game.
  • Trae Young has made 63 of 73 free-throw attempts this season (86 percent), but he uncharacteristically missed two consecutive free throws with three seconds remaining on the game clock that could have cost the Sooners the game.
  • Christian James’ 19 points was a career high.
  • After eight games in his freshman season, Trae Young has 70 assists. That ranks eighth in Sooner basketball history for total assists by a freshman.
  • Oklahoma was outrebounded in the game 45-32.
  • The Sooners had 15 assists in the game (9 by Trae Young). OU has recorded as many as 15 assists in seven of its eight games this season. The Sooners had that many assists in a game just four times all of last season.
  • Oklahoma converted 17 USC turnovers, the most by an OU opponent this season, into 18 points.
  • The Sooners have started the season 7-1 or better in four of the seven seasons Lon Kruger has been head coach.