Trae Young has become known for his scoring during his brief career with No. 17 Oklahoma. It was his record-tying passing that made the biggest difference for the Sooners on Tuesday night against Northwestern State.
The freshman guard had 26 points and tied an NCAA Division I record with 22 assists as Oklahoma rolled 105-68 in the Sooners’ first game since moving into the Top 25.
Brady Manek added 22 points and Kameron McGusty had 15 for Oklahoma (9-1). The Sooners have won seven straight games – including an upset of then-No. 3 Wichita State on Saturday – and have scored 90 or more points seven times this season.
Young’s 22 assists tied the major college record set by Tony Fairley of Charleston Southern vs. Armstrong in 1987 and matched by Southern’s Avery Johnson against Texas Southern in 1988 and Syracuse’s Sherman Douglas against Providence in 1989.
Young also broke the former Big 12 record of 18, set by Oklahoma’s Michael Johnson vs. North Texas in 1997, and matched by Oklahoma State’s Doug Gottlieb vs. Florida Atlantic in 1998.
“I give a lot of credit to my teammates,” Young said. “I wouldn’t be able to make an assist without my teammates knocking it down. They did a tremendous job making shots. But I mean that’s a big accomplishment, because not only is it an individual award . I feel like it’s a team thing, so that’s big for me more than anything else.”
Thirteen of Young’s assists came in the first half, breaking the Big 12 record for assists in a half formerly held by Baylor’s Pierre Jackson (2013), Gottlieb (1999) and Johnson (1997). Young also broke Oklahoma’s single-game assist mark, held by Johnson and Jan Pannell, who had 18 vs. Oklahoma City on Jan. 12, 1983.
“Obviously what Trae did tonight was exceptional, off the charts,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “He said in the locker room afterward that a lot of guys made a lot of shots for me. He made a lot of good plays for a lot of guys as well. It was good to see guys moving the ball.”
Ishmael Lane led Northwestern State (3-7) with 17 points while Larry Owens had 16. The Demons have lost all seven of their meetings with Oklahoma, which is 39-4 against nonconference opponents at home under Kruger.
Northwestern State kept the game close for about 4 minutes and led 11-9 on a layup by Owens at the 16:07 mark of the first half. The Sooners then seized control with a 20-1 run, going up 29-12 on a 3-pointer by Matt Freeman with 9:52 left before halftime.
The Sooners led 53-37 at halftime and steadily built on their advantage throughout the second half.
Young scored 20 or more points for the ninth straight game, the longest streak at Oklahoma since Buddy Hield did so during the 2015-16 season.
“He always knew where his players were on the floor,” Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said of Young. “A long time ago they talked about Magic Johnson, how he knew all the time where all nine players on the floor were. (Young) knows where all nine players are on the floor, too. That means that he is going to put the ball wherever it needs to be. Phenomenal player. He’s got the whole package because he can really shoot the ball and really pass the ball.”
Northwestern State: This is a particularly brutal stretch for the Demons, who lost to NAIA No. 2-ranked LSU-Shreveport as part of a road swing that includes games at Oklahoma and Utah. The Demons soon will be able to reset their season with the start of Southland Conference play.
Oklahoma: The Sooners are as hot as any team in Division I, coming off their upset of Wichita State, and Tuesday’s win kept their considerable momentum going with the start of Big 12 Conference play looming in less than two weeks.
Oklahoma was expected to win big over Northwestern State and did, but a win against a solid Northwestern squad on Friday would do more to move the needle for the Sooners in the rankings.
After missing the Sooners’ first-semester games due to academic suspension, sophomore forward Kristian Doolittle saw action for Oklahoma on Tuesday, two days after rejoining the team. He played 7 minutes without scoring but grabbed two rebounds. Last season, Doolittle played in 31 games with 25 starts and averaged 9.1 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting a team-best 39.5 percent from 3-point range.
KRUGER MOVES UP
Kruger recorded his 610th career win, moving him past former Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs (609) on the all-time Division I coaching wins list. Kruger’s win total ranks ninth among active head coaches and is 32nd all-time.
Northwestern State: Must bounce back quickly for a game Wednesday at another major conference foe, Utah, before beginning Southland Conference play on Dec. 28 at Nicholls State.
Oklahoma: Will host Northwestern on Friday in the final nonconference game of the season before its Big 12 opener at TCU on Dec. 30.
Source: Associated Press