If Friday night was it for Trae Young in front of the home crowd at Lloyd Noble, some will say he went out with a whimper. I think it’s the total opposite. Young had just 15 points with six assists, while shooting 5 of 19 from the floor and one of nine from three point range. But Oklahoma won, beating Iowa State 81-60.
Too often this season we’ve gotten caught up with Trae Young’s individual stat line, rather than the stat line that matters most: Oklahoma ___, Opponent ____. Heck, ESPN even had its own box score for Trae Young that it ran for most of the season simultaneously with the score of the game. It became a way for the network to try to latch onto a star during a relatively quiet time for the casual sports fan (post Super Bowl, pre March Madness). There’s no statistical way to know how much it hurt the Sooners, but it sure didn’t help them.
On Friday night, Young did a little bit of everything with his 15 points, six assists and five rebounds. He also only had two turnovers, something that has hampered the freshman at times this season. Those two turnovers were the fewest Young has had in a game since the second game of the season on November 15th against Ball State.
The personal highlight of Young’s season might have come in Stillwater when he scored 48 points on an absurd 14 of 39 shooting, while hitting eight of 20 three pointers. But Oklahoma lost the game to Oklahoma State in overtime. The shine wore off a bit as the Sooners lost six-straight games in February and just needed to get on track this past week to seal their NCAA Tournament bid.
They did that on Friday night when the average college hoops fans was probably more focused on the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals and even other Big 12 fans were likely thinking, “wait, there’s a game on Friday night?!” Heck, even many Oklahomans were probably tied up in the State Basketball Tournament that’s underway for the small schools, with the larger schools in the Area Tournament.
As far as OU is concerned, that’s good. The runaway train that became Trae Young seemed to engulf the team. Others players became gun shy with the ball, Young would try to do too much and Lon Kruger didn’t appear to be able to get everyone back in line.
Was Friday night Trae Young’s last game in Norman? I’d be absolutely shocked if it wasn’t. Even with his struggles, his range, ball handling and vision will have him as a lottery pick. It doesn’t matter how much you love your team and city, if you’re a lottery pick in the NBA, you go. No one will hold that against Trae Young.
But there is still some work left to do this season, or Young’s lone season with the Sooners will be considered a letdown.
Now that the Sooners are no longer being given the national attention they were a month ago, that’s the best thing for this team as it hopes to have a run in itself next week in Kansas City and then the following week when March Madness officially begins.
The Sooners will enter the Big 12 Tournament with limited expectations. If they get to the semifinals on Friday at the Sprint Center, it would be considered a success.
But most importantly, OU is at least solidly in the NCAA Tournament and they’ve taken a backseat on the national stage, which is the best thing that could happen to this team as it get ready for the biggest stage in the sport: March Madness.