Full-court press: Texas Tech

Frank Booker has a chance to shine as Sooners look to rebound

Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2014-15 season.

Texas Tech (11-9, 1-6) at No. 24 Oklahoma (12-7, 3-4)

When: 6:32 p.m. CST

TV/Radio: ESPNEWS/107.7 FM(OKC); 1430 AM (Tulsa); Sirius 92; XM 200

Series: Oklahoma, 34-21

Booker’s chance

Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins will be playing with an injured wrist – if he even plays. Sooners’ coach Lon Kruger said that if Cousins can’t start the game, which looks like it will be the likely scenario, then Frank Booker will probably get the start in his place. That seems unlikely though as Kruger expected Cousins to play even on Monday.

Still, it’s a great opportunity for Booker, who missed two games earlier this season with a herniated disc in his back and had been struggling with his confidence. Now fully healthy, Booker believes his game will come back to what it was last year when he averaged 6.5 points in less than 13 minutes per game over the final nine games of the season.

“(Kruger) told me those are the things he expects from me,” Booker said after his season-high 23 minutes and six points against Baylor. “It’s great to hear that from coach. I know now he has confidence in me knocking down shots. It’s a great boost to me.”

The disc bothered Booker for almost a month as he tried to play through the discomfort in his entire left side. He said it affected him mentally and knowing that the pain was there hurt him on both ends of the court.

Booker has scored more than six points only once this season.

“I think Frank is ready to give us more,” said Kruger, who noted that Booker is shooting better in practice since fully recovering from the injury.

After going a month without hitting a 3-pointer, Booker is shooting 40 percent from behind the arc in the past three games.

“I’m back, and I’m playing better than I was. I feel like everything happens for a reason,” he said. “Now, I’m getting back into a groove and getting my confidence back.”

Handling the high

There might not be a team in the country feeling better that Texas Tech, which is coming off a five-point victory against Iowa State. The Cyclones were the highest-ranked team in the Big 12 Conference at the time.

The Red Raiders, who some thought wouldn’t win a league game, led almost wire-to-wire and were ahead by 18 at one point in the first half.

“Tech is coming off of a good win – a game in which they played great and beat a very good Iowa State club,” Kruger said. “They’ll come in here feeling good about what they’re doing. We have to get up and guard them early and execute things on our end.”

Texas Tech ranks last in the conference in points per game and shooting percentage and in the bottom half of the league in 3-point shooting, free-throw shooting, field goal percentage defense and 3-point percentage defense.

Texas Tech is the only team in the conference without a player in the top 20 in scoring. Oklahoma has three in the top 20 (Cousins, Buddy Hield and TaShawn Thomas).

JuCo transfer Devaugntah Williams leads the Red Raiders with 11 points per game.

It sets up for the perfect chance for Oklahoma to end its woes – four losses in five games – and continue its dominance at home – 8-1 with a +19.3 scoring margin.

Moving forward

Sitting in the film room Monday afternoon, Kruger pointed out to his team’s major errors on defense in the past two games. Booker said he told them that it’s going to be tough to “fight back” in the conference with that kind of defense.

Kruger also said that the team has to move forward.

“We also have to remind them that every game is a finite battle,” Kruger said. “You’ve got to get ready whether having won the prior or losing the prior. You have to be ready for the next one.”

The next few games for Oklahoma present a softer side of the Big 12. The Sooners finally get to play conference cellar dwellers TCU and Texas Tech as well as a Bedlam renewal in Stillwater.

There’s a common mentality in the Sooners’ locker room though: Move on but don’t forget.

“That’s something we should learn from and not let happen again,” Booker said of Oklahoma’s struggles. “Because if it happens again we’re gonna keep losing. And then we’re gonna end up looking at the season like, We coulda did this, we coulda, shoulda, woulda. We don’t want to start that.”

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