Mens Basketball: Kansas vs Oklahoma - D1SportsNet


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Mens basketball

Kansas vs Oklahoma

Bill Self's sales pitch to Trae Young was enticing.

Self explained to Young what he planned to do with his offense if Young decided to join Self at Kansas.

The pitch from Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, though, was a bit more enticing -- stay home, be the focus of the Sooners' offense from the get-go and help rebuild a program rather than helping a powerful program reload.

Young wound up choosing Oklahoma over Kansas, saying the call to Self to let him know of his decision was the hardest he has had to make.

Entering Tuesday's game in Norman between the No. 12 Sooners and No. 5 Jayhawks, it's Young who provides the star power.

While Kansas (16-3, 6-1 Big 12) might not have the sure-fire lottery picks that have dotted their roster in recent years, the Jayhawks still are in control of the Big 12. They've put themselves in position to claim a 14th consecutive regular-season conference title with a two-game lead.

They've done it with a lineup lead by point guard Devonte' Graham, whose numbers aren't as flashy as Young's 30-plus-points, nearly 10-assist per game average but still makes Kansas go.

Self said he has to be cognizant of Graham wearing down in a game, because not only does Graham make the Jayhawks go offensively, both in scoring himself and creating for his teammates, but he's also Kansas' best defender and figures to draw the assignment of slowing Young most of the game.

"I do think he loves these challenges," Self said. "But I also know that with as much as we're asking him to do playing 36 minutes and having to defend the leading scorer in the country and everything else, that's tiring, and to still try to get 20 yourself. It'd be nice if somebody else would step and certainly relieve some of that load. But he does love these opportunities, there's no question."

For Young, there's not much time to get caught up in the hype of playing Kansas or any other storylines other than snapping out of the recent two-game funk the Sooners have been in.

Oklahoma is coming off an overtime loss at Oklahoma State despite Young scoring 48 points in that game, giving the Sooners their first two-game losing streak of the season.

Young continues to work to find the right balance of aggressiveness versus efficiency.

Kruger said he wants Young to keep his aggressiveness, though he wants him to avoid careless turnovers and be sure to get his teammates involved. While Young leads the nation in assists, his numbers have sagged slightly of late.

"That's something I looked at the past few games," Young said. "I'm going to be playing a little different from now on. Nothing major. I feel like we're, what, 14-4? That's not a bad record. Just playing a little different. There were some reads that I could've made that I didn't make. I've just got to get better."