Young scores 31, leads No. 17 Oklahoma past Northwestern
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — After another dazzling performance, Oklahoma point guard Trae Young declared it the “best time to be a Sooner.”
He might be right.
The freshman guard had 31 points and 12 assists to help 17th- ranked Oklahoma roll past Northwestern 104-78 on Friday night.
Young, the nation’s leader in scoring and assists, tied an NCAA record with 22 assists in a 105-68 victory over Northwestern State on Tuesday night. On Friday, he made 9 of 16 shots, including 8 of 13 3-point attempts, and became the first Oklahoma player since Stacey King in 1988-89 to post at least 10 straight games with 20 or more points.
Christian James matched a career high with 19 points, all in the first half. Brady Manek and Jamuni McNeace each added 11 for the Sooners (10-1), who won their eighth straight since losing to Arkansas on Nov. 23.
All signs looked good for the Sooners as they closed their pre-Big 12 schedule. They shot 61 percent from the field and scored at least 90 points for the eighth time in 11 games.
“I feel good about where we are at, but yet we got to keep working at it,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “We know how tough every night is going to be (in the Big 12). To be where we are right now is the guys playing with confidence, and that’s what you want, is guys playing with a high level of confidence and feeling good about what they are doing.”
Dererk Pardon had 17 points and nine rebounds for Northwestern (9-5), which had won four straight.
The Sooners jumped to a 7-0 lead and forced Northwestern to call a timeout 72 seconds into the game.
It didn’t get much better for the Wildcats. Young got Sooners fans out of their seats with a lob to James for a dunk that gave the Sooners a 41-22 lead.
Young hit a deep 3 in the final seconds of the first half to give the Sooners a 68-38 lead. He had 25 points and 10 assists before the break.
Oklahoma made 14 of 20 3-point attempts in the first half.
“You have to put a lot of the attention on Trae because he’s so good, and the way those guys shoot, it’s hard,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “The spacing on the floor, they run good actions. Offensively, they’re a tremendous team.”
Kruger said it was a special first-half performance.
“That’s pretty rare of course,” Kruger said. “You don’t plan on scoring 68 for sure. I liked the movement. They just took what came to them and they made good extra passes. They made shots. Trae and Christian that first half were unbelievable. Everybody stepped in and made good shots. A lot of confidence.”
Collins was reduced to trying to win the second half. Northwestern outscored the Sooners 40-36 after the break.
“It’s tough,” he said. “At that point, you’re talking about pride more than anything. You’re down by 30, they’ve scored almost 70 points. You’re just trying to find your own pride in that second half. You have to come out and continue to compete and not roll over.”
Northwestern: The Wildcats had no answer for Young, but no one has found one yet. Northwestern shot a respectable 45 percent and still got blown out.
Oklahoma: The Sooners entered the game leading the nation in scoring and upped their average.
Collins, talking about halftime: “I knew at least that we weren’t going to win the game. It was more about trying to build our habits going forward as we head into conference.”
Young has collected at least 10 assists in six of his 11 games and in five of his six home games.
Northwestern: The Wildcats host Brown on Dec. 30.
Oklahoma: The Sooners open conference play at TCU on Dec. 30.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .