AUSTIN, Texas — The star Saturday night was big and bright. Then, he flickered for a moment, and that was enough, deep in the heart of Texas.
The massive Frank Erwin Center crowd hit its peak when freshman center Mohamed Bamba slammed home a reverse dunk with 33 seconds left in a 79-74 win over No. 12 Oklahoma. But for the majority of the game, the other freshman star had his way.
While point guard Trae Young's shooting touch never made it across the Red River, he ran OU's offense with surgical precision. He cut apart Texas' stingy defense, finishing with 14 assists while severing off one of the nation's top shot blockers.
Bamba's long arms only rejected one shot — he entered averaging more than four rejections per game — as the Sooners scored 56 points in the paint, including 13 dunks. It was the most points in the paint by any team against Texas this season and only three teams have mustered more than 35.
“They were getting wherever they wanted to get,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “Trae Young, he had those guys on ice skates. He was getting in the paint, dropping the ball off for other guys and lob dunks.”
Still, in the final 90 seconds, Young committed two of his five turnovers and missed his 12th 3-pointer on 14 attempts, wiping away any chance of a comeback after a 22-4 Texas run.
Some wondered if the nation's leader in scoring and assists was tired, as he never left the floor. When Sooner coach Lon Kruger was asked, Young sat back and shook his head.
“I don't think I got worn down,” Young said. “I just don't think we kept the momentum on our side.”
OU seemed a lock to win its first road game of the new year on several occasions. It took a double-digit lead early in the second half, led 66-57 with 7:54 remaining, and had fresher legs late as Texas relied on five players for more than 30 minutes each. OU even out-rebounded the taller Longhorns, 37 to 25, had 22 bench points to Texas' seven and scored 16 in transition.
“The guys did a good job of running out, and Trae did a good job of throwing the ball ahead,” Kruger said. “We had some good looks there, but again, to have the game in a position like that, you hate to let it slip away.”
The Sooners couldn't hit from the outside, and as they continued to miss, they continued to shoot. After starting 2 of 4 from behind the 3-point arc, OU hit just 1 of its next 18. Towards the end of the first half, when the Sooners were threatening to run away from Texas, holding an eight-point lead, they missed six 3-pointers in two minutes.
“That's what they do,” Smart said. “Trae Young has made more than anyone this whole year and I'm sure his mentality is keep attacking and keep letting them fly.”
However, OU's just-keep-shooting mantra isn't working on the road. The Sooners are 35 of 129 in their last five losses, all on opponents' floors. That confounding 27.1 percent is well below the rest of the season's 41.9 percent.
Even while Young got to wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted, the shots he and the rest of the Sooners wanted weren't going in.
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