Sooners Race Past Roadrunners
NORMAN (AP) — Oklahoma's Trae Young is showing that he's both dynamic and consistent.
The freshman guard had 28 points and eight assists to help Oklahoma defeat Texas-San Antonio 97-85 on Monday night.
Young, who entered as the nation's leading scorer, already is accomplishing rare feats. He was the first freshman since Indiana's Eric Gordon in 2007 to lead the nation in scoring in November and the first player of any grade to average at least 28 points and eight assists in November in 20 years. He has been either Big 12 Player of the Week or Newcomer of the Week every week this season.
He said none of his early success has been a surprise. He was a McDonald's All-American and one of the nation's top recruits coming out of high school.
"I just feel like I've put in so much work that I expected all of this to happen, just because of the hard work I've put in and the preparation I did and my teammates around me being so good," he said. "It's helping me.
Young made just 2 of 11 3-pointers against UTSA, but made up for it by connecting on 7 of 11 shots inside the arc and draining 8 of 9 free throws.
It's been easy for his teammates to stay engaged while he scores because he looks for them, too. He entered the night ranked third nationally in assists per game.
"Trae obviously has the skill and ability to score, which is great, but he also finds people and is very creative off penetration," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "I think we are getting more comfortable and locating where we need to be, and he's getting more comfortable finding them. That will be ongoing. It's steadily getting better."
Jamuni McNeace scored a career-high 15 points and Christian James added 14 for the Sooners (6-1).
Freshman Jhivvan Jackson scored a season-high 31 points, Keaton Wallace scored 17 points and Deon Lyle added 16 for UTSA (5-5).
It was a reunion for the coaches. UTSA coach Steve Henson was an assistant for Kruger at Oklahoma when the Sooners reached the Final Four two seasons ago.
"It was awkward right when the game started, but once it gets going, emotions get involved and you just lock in on your team and coach," Henson said. "It was a little different standing on the other end."
Oklahoma led 42-37 at halftime as Young had 18 points and five assists. The Sooners shot poorly by their standards, but maintained control by holding the Roadrunners to 33 percent shooting before the break.
UTSA cut Oklahoma's lead to 50-48 early in the second half, but a transition layup by Young plus a free throw on the foul pushed the Sooners' lead back up to seven.
Oklahoma started pulling away midway through the second half. Putback baskets by Rashard Odomes and Brady Manek put the Sooners up 82-67. A lob from Young to McNeace for a dunk put the Sooners ahead 92-73.
"Those guys are scoring a ton of points and we knew that coming in," Henson said. "Our guys were excited about playing. That was our message to our guys — we come in to practice every day ready to get better. We played a great team tonight. It was fun for our guys."
UTSA: The Roadrunners had lost by two to Bradley and four to Tulsa earlier in the season, so they had been competitive with reputable programs. They gave the Sooners all they could handle in the first half.
Oklahoma: The Sooners started out looking sluggish for the second straight game, and the Roadrunners outrebounded them by two in the first half. Oklahoma had a 29-20 advantage in the second half.
"I thought they got loose balls and long rebounds in the first half," Kruger said. "We did a better job in the second half. We got to continue to work on that. They whooped us on the boards in the first half for sure."
It was the first time in four home games that Young failed to have at least 10 assists. He averages 10.3 assists in home games.
Henson on Young: "He's a handful. Terrific player. Doing a lot of good things. He's steadily improving. A lot of good players around him figuring out their spots."
The Sooners head to Los Angeles to face No. 25 Southern California as part of a triple header in one of basketball's most famous venues - STAPLES Center. The Sooners and Trojans square off on Friday, Dec. 8 as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. The contest will tip at 9:30 p.m. CT and air on ESPN2.