Sooners Impress In Season Debut
NORMAN – Hometown star Trae Young couldn't wait to play his first regular-season game for his beloved Oklahoma Sooners.
Perhaps he was in too much of a hurry — his first shot was an air ball. The freshman recovered and had 15 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in his college debut to help Oklahoma defeat Omaha 108-89 on Sunday.
"Just ready to get it going," Young, a McDonald's All-American for Norman North High last season, said. "I was tired of the wait. No, not nervous, just very anxious."
Young also had two steals and two blocks. His all-around play offset a 4-for-13 shooting performance.
"My teammates had my back tonight," he said.
Omaha coach Derrin Hansen said he remembers Young from AAU ball and said nothing has changed.
"I just remember him being a really, really good player," he said. "His decision-making and his passes, even in traffic, are pinpoint. And those are real qualities. Whether it's in transition, off of a ball screen or whether he's driving in the paint, he's in control of the basketball."
Jamuni McNeace had 14 points and a career-high six blocks and Christian James also scored 14 points for Oklahoma (1-0). Matt Freeman scored 13 points and Jordan Shepherd had 10 points and a career-high six assists for the Sooners.
Brady Manek, a freshman from Harrah, Oklahoma, added 11 points for the Sooners. It was the first time Oklahoma scored more than 100 points since Buddy Hield's 46-point outburst against Kansas in January 2016.
"This should be a deep squad," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "Obviously, the more depth the better. There might be foul trouble or a tweaked ankle or whatever, so it's nice to know you can go deep into the bench and get good production."
Zach Jackson scored 24 points and JT Gibson added 16 for Omaha (0-2). Daniel Norl, who scored 29 points in the opener, finished with 11.
Oklahoma shot 54.1 percent in the first half to take a 52-38 halftime lead. Young had six points, seven assists and five rebounds in 15 minutes of action before the break. He made just 1 of 7 shots in the first half, but his teammates made 19 of 30, with many of those buckets set up by his pinpoint passing. The Sooners held Omaha to 39 percent shooting before the break.
Omaha made a push to start the second half and cut its deficit to 12, but an alley-oop from Young for a dunk by Manek pushed Oklahoma's lead back out to 17. Another Young to Manek alley-oop dunk put the Sooners up 20 with 5:32 remaining.
"Size, length and athleticism — especially over time — trumps execution," Hansen said. "How we want to double, how we want to trap and how we want to guard the ball screen — it doesn't matter. When you can throw it over the top on a consistent basis, there's not much you can do no matter what your execution is."
Young made his mark early by creating easier shots for Oklahoma's talented roster. He showed the potential to be the missing piece that could help the Sooners return to prominence. He averaged 42.6 points as a senior in high school, yet he made setting up his teammates a priority in the opener.
Young subbed back in with 9:15 remaining and the Sooners leading 80-68. When he went to the bench for good with 3:56 remaining, the Sooners led 95-76. He had a layup and two assists during that stretch.
Kruger on Young's double-double: "It's not going to be unusual that he does that. We expect him to make good plays and expect him to push the pace and make good decisions. Scoring is a part of it. So yeah, not surprised that it happened."
The Sooners had 13 blocked shots. McNeace led the way with six, Young had two, Khadeem Lattin had two and Manek, Freeman and Shepherd had one apiece.
The Sooners welcome the Cardinals of Ball State to Norman on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. CT for the first-ever meeting between the two programs. The non-conference contest is a campus game for the upcoming PK80 tournament in Portland, Ore., and will air on Fox Sports Southwest Plus. The Cardinals are coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons and have shared the MAC West Division title in each of the past two seasons. Ball State opened the season with a one-point loss (78-77) to defending Atlantic 10 champion Dayton on Friday.