Young at heart of No. 17 Oklahoma’s revival

NORMAN, Okla. — Trae Young won’t admit to anything close to surprise at his performance through the first 10 games of his college career.

Young expected immediate success when he committed to Oklahoma over Kansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State.

It would’ve been hard for anybody to conceive the success he’s had this far, though.

Young, who played high school basketball a couple miles away from the Oklahoma campus, is leading the country in scoring (28.5 points per game) and assists (10.2). In his last game, Tuesday against Northwestern State, he tied an NCAA record with 22 assists.

Going into Friday’s home game against Northwestern, Young is responsible for a buzz around the 17th-ranked Sooners that was lacking last season, when they were 11-20.

“That’s what I want it to be,” Young said of the crowd volume that was present at the end of the Northwestern State win when he left the court to an ovation after tying the record.

Young grew up close to Oklahoma basketball, though his father Rayford played at Texas Tech. Young served as a ball boy for the Sooners, watching intently during the Blake Griffin era and then run to the Buddy Hield-led run to the Final Four in 2016.

“I wanted to come here and get the Lloyd Noble Center like I used to see it as a kid,” Young said. “I love it. I love when the fans come out. We have a big one Friday — a big one. We’re going to need a lot of support from them.”

Northwestern was expected to be the premier nonconference home game for the Sooners. But the Wildcats (9-4) dropped four of their first nine game to plummet from the rankings. They’ve won four straight games since, though.

For Northwestern, slowing down Young could get more difficult if the Wildcats are without Vic Law, their top defender.

Law has been in concussion protocol since a fall Saturday at DePaul. He made the trip to Norman, though, and could be cleared to play in time for the game.

“He’s getting better,” Collins told the Chicago Tribune. “But he has to pass all the steps along the way.”

Law would be a big part of Northwestern’s plan to try to slow down Young, though plenty of other players figure to have a hand in guarding Young.

The difficult thing about guarding Young has been his ability to find teammates for open shots with teammates Brady Manek and Kameron McGusty in particular coming on strong over the last two games.

The balance between defending Young the scorer and Young the passer is a tricky one, Collins said.

“He’s a high scorer, so you have to give help, but you can’t give too much because he’s a high-assist guy,” Collins said. “You’re not going to stop him, but you try not to let him get an amazing rhythm. You want to make him take tough shots.”

For the Sooners, the game gives them an opportunity to keep momentum going into Big 12 play.

For the Wildcats, it’s a chance to regain the momentum they built during an inaugural run to the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

“Sometimes you have to get beat to rediscover what makes you good,” Collins said.