With three minutes and thirty seconds to play in regulation, the Oklahoma Sooners consistently sent Udoka Azubuike to the charity stripe for the Kansas Jayhawks. A 41% free throw shooter, the center missed attempt after attempt. Clearly, the “Hack-a-Shaq” approach was working for Coach Lon Kruger down the stretch as the door of opportunity swung opened.
Trailing by a single point, Trae Young grabbed the defensive rebound off a deep three point attempt by Devonte Graham. Maneuvering through the defense, the freshman found a window. As the defense collapsed, Young dished the ball out to Christian James on the three point line. Firing away, the experienced guard knocked down the attempt putting the Sooners up 82-80 with 1:09 remaining.
Feeling the pressure, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk attempted to regain the lead. Behind a team high 24 points, the sharp-shooter clearly had the hot hand. Elevating and releasing a shot, Mykhailiuk came up short for the Jayhawks as Brady Manek snatched up the rebound for Oklahoma.
Calling a time out, Coach Kruger drew up a play to put the nail in the coffin. Calling upon Manek, the true freshman answered with a three pointer of his own. Finding the bottom of the net, the Sooners claimed an 85-80 lead and eventually, a victory. The win ended a two game skid for OU.
A large reason for the success of Oklahoma was the change of pace for Young. Instead of attempting 39 shots throughout the duration of the contest, the youngster refused to shoot the ball from range in the first half. The decision lead to Young becoming a facilitator once again. Dishing out nine assists, Oklahoma moved the ball exceptionally well.
Young may have led all scorers with 26 points but he shot the ball a mere nine times. James as well as Manek benefitted significantly from the court vision of Young. As a trio, the three collected 55 total points against Kansas. If the trend continues, Oklahoma will be a difficult team to topple down the road.
Up next, the Sooners step out of conference play to partake in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Their opponent? The Alabama Crimson Tide on on Saturday.