No. 9 Texas Tech aims for revenge on struggling Oklahoma
Emotions, momentum and urgency are all key elements teams have to juggle late in seasons when a major goal starts to come into focus.
How Oklahoma and No. 9 Texas Tech manage those things when they meet in Lubbock, Texas, on Tuesday figures to be a major theme in the next round of the rigorous Big 12 Conference schedule.
The Sooners (14-13, 4-10 Big 12) are reeling and likely watched their NCAA Tournament hopes fade to black with a 75-54 loss at Iowa State on Saturday. Meanwhile, the hard-charging Red Raiders (21-6, 10-4) won their third game in a row on Saturday, 61-55 at No. 20 Texas.
That capped a huge week for Texas Tech when it completed season sweeps of Baylor and Texas to total seven victories against ranked foes this season.
The second game this season between Oklahoma and Texas Tech pits a desperate foe against one flying high. One other wrinkle: Not quite two weeks ago, the Sooners rolled over the Red Raiders 70-55 at Norman, Okla., in Texas Tech's worst league loss since Feb. 2, 2019.
The two roads to Tuesday's intersection began after very different Big 12 away games for each team.
The Sooners ran into a buzzsaw at Ames, Iowa, as the Cyclones shot 75 percent (18 of 24) in the first half and 67.3 percent for the game (33 of 49).
Even with that challenge, Oklahoma stayed close into the second half when Jordan Goldwire's 3-pointer closed the gap to 49-44 with 13:21 remaining.
What the Sooners couldn't survive was a 15-0 Iowa State run that swelled the deficit to 22 points before Oklahoma could re-establish its footing.
Playing its first game without veteran guard Elijah Harkless, whose season ended last week with an undisclosed injury, the Sooners were out of sync defensively.
"Struggled guarding the dribble," Sooners head coach Porter Moser said. "Really struggled guarding the dribbler early on. We switch a lot, and that's the No. 1 area where we missed Elijah. We felt it right away."
Texas Tech also was down a key player, with Kevin McCullar out of action against Texas with an ankle injury. But the emotions of playing the Longhorns at Austin, with a crowd that was nearly split between the two fan bases, certainly seemed to fuel Texas Tech, which is tied with Baylor for second place in the Big 12.
In McCullar's absence, Clarence Nadolny emerged with a big performance, scoring 14 points after producing that same number combined over the previous seven games.
"I've been in a slump with my shooting," Nadolny said. "I've been really upset with myself, but I keep on working on it every day. I was just thinking, there was no reason that one day it would start falling -- and (Saturday) was that day."
It was a good thing for the Red Raiders because their win against the Longhorns was not an offensive masterpiece.
Texas Tech shot 36.5 percent (19 of 52) in the victory and missed 11 of 14 3-point tries. On the other end of the floor, the Red Raiders were stifling and limited the Longhorns to 28.3 percent (17 of 60) and surrendered only 10 points in the paint.
It could require an enhanced defensive performance against Oklahoma after Texas Tech's shaky effort on that front in the first meeting. The Sooners connected on 13 of 28 3-pointers in that game (46.4 percent), with Umoja Gibson going 8 of 11 from distance on the way to a 30-point performance.
Gibson has struggled since then with defenses focused on him. He was held scoreless by Kansas and managed only four points on 2-of-7 shooting against Iowa State (0 of 4 from 3-point range).
--Field Level Media
Updated February 21, 2022