Young carries No. 17 Oklahoma with big game
NORMAN, Okla. — Sitting on the bench while his teammates warmed up before the second half, all Oklahoma star Trae Young could do was smile and shake his head as he looked up at the scoreboard.
Not only did Young put on a show in the first half of the No. 17 Sooners’ 104-78 blowout of Northwestern on Friday night in front of 9,692 at Lloyd Noble Center, but Oklahoma’s offense as a whole took center stage.
By the time 20 minutes were gone, the Sooners had scored 68 points, the most in a half in nearly 26 years. Young had 25 points and 10 assists by the break and Northwestern coach Chris Collins said his team was “shell-shocked.”
“You don’t plan on scoring 68, for sure,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. “But they just took what came to them and made good extra passes, and obviously they all made shots. Trae and Christian (James) that first half were unbelievable, and so were other guys, too.”
Young, the nation’s leader in scoring and assists, finished with 31 points and 12 assists for the Sooners (10-1). Earlier in the week, he tied an NCAA record with 22 assists in a game.
“He changes speeds well and he is shifty,” Collins said. “And so the moment you are kind of a little off balance, he does a great job getting into your body and kind of playing off your movements.
“He’s got incredible vision. I always knew he was an incredible scorer. But the one thing I think he is underrated on is his ability to pass. I thought he made some great passes and found guys.”
James scored 19 points — all in the first half — to match a career high.
Dererk Pardon scored 17 points to lead Northwestern (9-5). Bryant McIntosh and Aaron Falzon added 12 each.
Oklahoma extended its winning streak to eight heading into Big 12 play. The Sooners are just one win from equaling their total from a year ago, when they finished 11-20.
“We’re getting back to how it should be,” James said. “Being on that Final Four team (in 2016) and just seeing the crowd and how much they affect the games — it’s a great time to be a Sooner. I feel like we’re getting back to that point. We want to keep doing it.”
Northwestern had its four-game winning streak snapped.
The Sooners got off to a blistering start with 22 points in the first five minutes.
Just 45 seconds into the game, Young drove toward the basket and floated over a Wildcats defender, dropping the ball in the bucket and picking up the foul.
Less than 30 seconds later, he found Rashard Odomes for a cutting layup in transition for his first assist.
Oklahoma hit 14 first-half 3-pointers and finished with 17 to tie the school record.
Northwestern struggled to keep up with Oklahoma’s pace early, shooting 42.9 percent in the first half but just 4 of 15 (26.7 percent) from behind the arc.
Trailing 68-38 at halftime was difficult for his team, Collins said. The Wildcats had held their opponents to less than 68 points in seven complete games this season.
“At that point, you’re talking about pride more than anything,” Collins said. “You’re just trying to find your own pride in the second half. You have to come out and continue to compete, and not roll over.
“What you’re saying is — can we win the second half? Can we put some stops together? Can we string together some minutes where we’re having some positive basketball?”
The Wildcats had hit 11 or more 3-pointers in each of their previous three games but finished with eight.
The Sooners reached the 100-point mark in the final two minutes, breaking into triple digits for the fourth time this season and the second consecutive.
Oklahoma had 22 assists, topping 20 assists for the sixth time this year.
NOTES: The crowd was Oklahoma’s largest for a non-conference game since 2008. ... With 25 first-half points, Oklahoma PG Trae Young became the first Sooners player since Stacey King in 1988-89 to score 20 or more points in 10 consecutive games. ... Northwestern junior F Vic Law missed his second consecutive game because of a concussion. ... Oklahoma F Brady Manek’s free throws in the opening moments were his first made free throws of the season. He was 0 of 4 from the line coming into the game. ... Oklahoma opens Big 12 play on Dec. 30 at No. 15 TCU. Northwestern hosts Brown the same day.