Playing Texas Tech will do that for a team.
After scooping up a loose ball, freshman Khadeem Lattin found himself alone on the Red Raiders’ side of the court. Everyone watched – almost motionless – as Lattin rocked back with his right hand and threw down a powerful dunk.
The usually boastful Lattin just turned with a straight face and pointed to his teammates. But by the time he was back in defensive position, he flashed a big smile.
Lattin’s dunk punctuated a massive Oklahoma run that put its Big 12 record-setting 81-36 victory to bed Wednesday night inside Lloyd Noble Center.
It wasn’t an exclamation point though – more of just a really loud comma.
“You don’t ever expect that, to that degree,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “ . . . We have to keep doing that. This league is unforgiving.”
No. 24 Oklahoma (13-7, 4-4 Big 12) went on a 33-2 run that spanned through halftime. Lattin’s dunk was the 27th point as the Sooners snapped a two-game losin streak and a run of four losses in its past five games.
Texas Tech, which had two assists and 17 turnovers in the game, didn’t hit a field goal for 10:40.
“It was nice to play good, fully as a team, on both ends of the court,” Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler said. “We finally played 40 minutes of good defense. We got out and ran. That’s when we’re the best.”
The Sooners, who posted its lowest field goal percentage defense in 11 years (21.2 percent), set a Big 12 record for points allowed in the victory. The 45-point win is tied for the 8th-most lopsided victory in Big 12 history.
Oklahoma outscored Texas Tech, 32-6, off turnovers, 18-4, on the fast break and in the paint, 38-16.
“I really didn’t see this coming,” Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said. “I thought we were prepared. . . . We lost our confidence. Oklahoma is the type of team that if you do that you’re gonna get beat bad.”
There was no need for a late-game test Wednesday night as Texas Tech (11-10, 1-7), which was coming off an upset of then-No. 9 Iowa State on Saturday, didn’t put up much of a fight in the second half.
Oklahoma forced a turnover on five straight possessions early in the second half. The last one led to Lattin’s run-out dunk.
“It's something that we need to keep getting better at – being more aggressive, more physical, tougher to loose balls, tougher on rebounds,” Kruger said. “This is a league where you've just got to be tougher. Every team's talking about that.
“You've just got to get loose balls. You've got to not let rebounds slip away. You've got to value each possession, and do it for 40 minutes.”
In need of a pick-me-up kind of performance, Oklahoma turned to its most emotional player early. Spangler got Oklahoma going early with defensively physicality and some great touch around the basket.
Spangler, who finished with a season-high 20 points, earned four and-1 opportunities in the first half and had three blocks in the first half.
“Coach had been preaching to us – somebody's got to light the fire,” Spangler said. “I think all of us did that (Wednesday). I just got the easy baskets from my teammates. . . . I think all of us playing defense hard really started it, and we kept it up all game.”
Guard Buddy Hield scored 15 points and pulled down seven rebounds.
Lattin had five blocks to go along with four rebounds in a career-high tying 19 minutes, and Isaiah Cousins didn’t look any worse for the wear, despite a wrap on his right wrist after a sprain four days earlier. Cousins finished with 13 points.
In the past two games, Oklahoma had failed to execute in the final six minutes. As the six-minute mark ticked by Wednesday, Hield was standing next to the Sooners’ bench with a towel wrapped around his neck.
Cousins was right next to him, his towel draped over his right shoulder.
Only one thing took the towels off: Jordan Woodard’s break-away dunk that sent Hield into a giddy run around the Oklahoma bench. And maybe walk-on Daniel Harper’s corner 3-pointer – the first points of his career.
Nights like Wednesday don’t come around often. Almost never, so there’s a little bit of savoring for Oklahoma before facing Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Saturday.
“You'll still do a little bit of that but not so much,” Kruger said.