Oklahoma basketball: Two wins over ranked teams have Sooners sitting pretty


With back-to-back road wins over top-25 teams, Oklahoma basketball is making an especially strong statement that the Sooners of old have returned and are not looking back.

Saturday’s win, on the road and against one of the nation’s best teams, was more than big. It was milestone big. Oddly enough, the 91-83 victory over No. 3-ranked Wichita State was Oklahoma’s first nonconference win ever on the road against a team ranked as high as third or better. We’re talking a period covering at least 70 years, or when the Associated Press college basketball poll was introduced.

Ten days ago or so, we wrote that the upcoming games against a pair of ranked teams (USC and Wichita State) would provide a measuring stick about what and where the 2017-18 edition of Sooner men’s basketball is. Sooner fans were hoping for the best, and they got even better.

OU, behind what so far has proved to be college basketball’s biggest surprise and best player, freshman sensation Trae Young, has won eight of nine games. With a pair of projected wins at home this coming week (over a pair of Northwesterns – Northwestern State (Louisiana) and Northwestern University (Illinois) – the Sooners will begin the conference season at 10-1, their best start to Big 12 play since the 2015-16 season, when they started out 12-0 before losing at Kansas in a triple-overtime thriller.

Here’s hoping the OU players got a good look around Wichita’s Intrust Bank Arena and liked what they saw – how could they not? – because if they continue to play as well as they did on Saturday in pulling off the upset of the Shockers, they just might earn a return visit in the postseason. Intrust Arena will be one of the sites for NCAA Tournament games in March.

Much like last season, when the Sooners were led most of the season by a pair of true freshmen, Kameron McGusty and Kristian Doolittle, the same is happening this season. Young, one of the most highly touted recruits in the national class of 2017, has led OU in scoring in all nine games this season.

The freshman point guard’s 28.8 scoring average not only leads the Sooners and the Big 12, but the entire nation, as well. Young’s scoring has definitely been a huge lift to a team that averaged just 73.0 points a game a year ago, but is blowing the lid off the basket this season with a 93.0-point average.

Oklahoma Sooners Basketball
Oklahoma Sooners Basketball /

Oklahoma Sooners Basketball

Young’s scoring ability is not the only thing about the young superstar that is turning heads this season. He is also getting his teammates involved by distributing the basketball. He had 10 assists against Wichita State on Saturday to go with his game-high 29 points. He is averaging 8.9 assists per game, third best in the nation.

Young had the Shockers on their heels early on Saturday, hitting six of his first nine shots and tallying 16 of his 29 points in the game’s first nine minutes. Another Sooner freshman, 6-foot, 9-inch Brady Manek had his best game of the season in the OU victory on Saturday, draining five of 13 three-point attempts on his way to a 21-point afternoon.

Saturday marked just the second time since 1976 that two Oklahoma freshmen scored 20 or more points in the same game. The other time was last season, when McGusty and Doolittle each exceeded the 20-point level (against Texas).

Ironically, the Sooners’ biggest win of the year was accompanied by their worst shooting performance of the season. After shooting 50.0 percent in the first half (20 of 40) and racing out to a 54-39 halftime lead, Oklahoma cooled off considerably over the second 20 minutes, ending at 40.3 percent for the game.

Wichita State came into Saturday’s game leading the nation in rebounding margin (+14.6). The Sooners are just +1.9 in that category. Despite the huge season difference, OU matched the Shockers on the boards, with each team collecting 43 apiece.

The Sooners are now 9-13 all-time against teams ranked in the top five of the AP Top 25.

Here are a few more quick shots regarding Oklahoma men’s basketball this season:

  • Oklahoma is averaging 93.0 points per game so far in 2017-18. The Sooners are 6-0 this season when they score 90 or more points.
  • The Sooners have scored 45 or more points in 11 of 18 halves this season. They score 52 in the first half on Saturday at Wichita State.
  • OU is 4-0 in 2017-18 when shooting 50 percent or better for the game and when dishing out 20 or more assists.
  • The Sooners have won six consecutive games since suffering their only loss of the season to Arkansas in the PK80 Invitational Tournament over the Thanksgiving weekend.
  • OU freshmen Trae Young and Brady Manek, both natives of the state of Oklahoma, combined for 37 of the Sooners 54 first-half points against Wichita State.