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Trae Young is efficient again and the rest of college basketball is toast

The Oklahoma freshman keeps getting better after scoring 44 points on just 20 shots against Baylor.

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Oklahoma Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Trae Young did it again. This time Baylor was the foil and Young’s newfound focus on efficiency was the inspiration for another gem of a performance that ranks among his best in a brilliant freshman season.

Young finished with 44 points by shooting 11 of 20 from the field, 6 of 11 from three-point range, and 16 of 19 from the foul line in a 98-96 Oklahoma win. He scored 31 of those points in the second half in what’s becoming a major theme of his season: Young has a tendency to feel his way out in the first half before ripping out your heart when the game is on the line.

This was the third time in six games Young has scored at least 40 points and the fourth time he’s done it this season. Yes, he had six turnovers, but no one cares: This 6’2, 180-pound freshman who has yet to dunk in a game is the most unstoppable force in college basketball.

Just ask Baylor. Young hit dagger after dagger against the Bears on Tuesday night, highlighted by the type of deep threes that have to be so demoralizing for opponents. He also had nine assists and continues to lead the country in both points and assists per game.

Young is a monster, and it feels like he’s only getting better.

Young is focused on efficiency now

Young gave a telling quote after the win:

“I don’t think you can say I was inefficient tonight,” Young said. “I remember against Oklahoma State, I had a lot of points but wasn’t efficient. But I was glad that I was very efficient and my teammates did a great job of scoring as well.”

The Sooners’ Jan. 20 overtime loss to Oklahoma State feels like a tipping point in Young’s season. He finished that game with 48 points, but he needed 39 shots to get there. The criticism of that performance was always unwarranted, but it appears to have sparked a new interest in efficiency for Young that should terrify the rest of the Big 12.

He’s still taking deep threes, but those are good shots for him. And when a few start to fall, everything else in his game opens up.

No one can keep him off the foul line

Young’s secret talent is his ability to draw fouls. We typically think of the biggest, most athletic guards as the ones with a special ability at getting to the line. Young does it another way: By leveraging the threat of his pull-up shooting to open driving lines and keep defenses on their heels.

After 19 more free throw attempts against Baylor, Young is now No. 6 in the country in fouls drawn per 40, according to KenPom. Combine Young’s quickness with his ability to shoot from anywhere and opposing defenses are just totally broken.

Here are two plays that sum it up:

If Young has daylight, he’s liable to shoot from anywhere on the floor. These plays simply break the standard rhythms of a basketball game and throw traditional coverage schemes completely out of whack.

But as soon as defenses start applying aggressive ball pressure, Young is burning you to the basket:

Take the screen. Fake the screen. It doesn’t matter. Young’s deep range provides an entirely new dimension of spacing. His first step and passing ability then leverage that space into whatever he needs it to be.

How does you stop this?

You don’t. Baylor couldn’t and neither can anywhere else.

The player of the year race is over. Everyone else is playing for second.