NORMAN, Okla. — One game after unloading 39 shots in a loss, Trae Young beat Kansas on Tuesday night with a pass.
Trailing by a point in the final minute, the Oklahoma freshman point guard dribbled underneath the basket. But instead of forcing a wild attempt, Young kicked a pass to the corner, giving teammate Christian James a wide-open 3-point look.
“I had no doubt when he shot that ball it was going to go in,” Young said. “I have tremendous confidence in all my teammates.”
James sank the shot and the Sooners went on to knock off fifth-ranked Kansas 85-80, closing the gap on the Jayhawks in the Big 12 standings.
“Wanted to make the right play like I had been doing the whole game,” Young said. “I wanted to make the right read and the right play.”
Young bounced back from Saturday’s overtime defeat at Oklahoma State with a spectacularly efficient performance against the Jayhawks. He finished with 26 points on just nine field-goal attempts to go along with nine assists. Beforehand, the nation’s leader in points and assists had vowed to throttle back his shooting after scoring 48 points on 39 shots while committing seven turnovers against the Cowboys.
“That’s very impressive for a guard,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He was under control and made the right plays the vast majority of the time.”
Young made good on that promise, taking just four shots in the first half, his lowest total of the season. Young’s first 3-point attempt — which he made — didn’t come until 15:26 was left in the game.
Yet despite trimming his shooting, Young stayed on the attack against the Jayhawks while trying to involve his teammates. That resulted in several missed wide-open attempts early, but Young never relented and kept trusting. And even though he didn’t take a single shot from the field in the final 7:51, he found a way to produce the winning play.
“I was just showing what I’ve been doing all year besides last week. Getting my teammates involved, getting them involved early,” Young said. “They played really well.”
As a result, Young and the Sooners overcame the Kansas combination of Devonte’ Graham’s playmaking, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk’s shooting and Udoka Azubuike’s strength around the rim.
Azubuike dominated the early part of the second half, propelling Kansas to a nine-point lead. But Oklahoma found an answer for him inside, then found his weakness.
Oklahoma reserve Matt Freeman, who played only two minutes, deliberately hacked Azubuike four times on five possessions with the Jayhawks in the bouns. Azubuike twice missed the front end of one-and-ones. He then missed four more free throws.
“It was obviously the wrong thing to do to win this game,” Self said about leaving Azubuike in down the stretch. “It was a bad decision. It was on me.”
That gave Young the opportunity to bring the Sooners back — this time with the pass.
“I managed the game better tonight, and my teammates did a great job making plays,” Young said.