Oklahoma Sooners look to rebound against a rallying Texas Tech team

OU ready to play the slow-down game but still needing to get its offense going once again

Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2015-16 season.

No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners (20-4, 8-4) at Texas Tech Red Raiders (15-9, 5-7)

TV/Radio: ESPNU/107.7 FM

Time: 8 p.m.

Series: Oklahoma, 37-21

They are who they are

TaShawn Thomas isn’t walking through the door. Blake Griffin isn’t walking through the door. Oklahoma isn’t suddenly going to develop a post offense because it needs to be better inside. The Sooners are a sharp-shooting, 3-point team – the best in the country.

Kansas took away Oklahoma’s only real interior offense – the lob or roll to the basket. Combine that with shooting woes, like a 2-for-19 start to Saturday’s loss, and suddenly, the Sooners biggest weakness looks even bigger.

“I don’t know if we’re going to score a lot in the low post,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “We just don’t have that type of make-up. We certainly could throw it in there a little more and maybe play from there, whether it be trying to draw a foul or kick the ball back out. Our group has had a lot of success shooting 3s and making 3s. We’re going to continue to do that.”

Oklahoma is shooting 44.3 percent from behind the 3-point arc this season. That’s two percentage points better than any other team in the country. Only 11 teams in the country are shooting better than 40 percent from behind the arc. The Sooners are doing that while shooting the ninth-most attempts in the nation.

Oklahoma is the only team in the top 30 teams in regards to 3-pointers made that has attempted less than 600. But Oklahoma has shot worse that 35 percent from behind the 3-point arc in two of its last three games – both losses.

“We've got to figure out some other ways to score, and we're not a club that throws it inside a lot so I don't know what exactly that means at this point but we've got to keep moving and creating better looks for each other,” Kruger said after the loss to Kansas.

Red-Raider wake up

If it wasn’t clear to the Sooners before a road loss to Kansas State that any team in the conference can beat anyone in the Big 12, then it should be now as Oklahoma prepares for a matchup with Texas Tech.

Less than a week earlier, Texas Tech trying to not be the last-place team in the conference – sitting at 3-7 in league play. But after wins against Baylor and Iowa State, the Red Raiders have a shot at getting a first-day bye in the Big 12 Tournament.

“Even if they wouldn’t have beaten (Baylor), they would have caught our attention,” Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield said. “We know what they’re capable of doing and how they play everybody tough there. It’s a great atmosphere no matter what. I’m trying to get my guys ready to prepare for this and for this six-game winning streak to get going.”

First, Oklahoma has to stop Texas Tech’s two-game win streak. Both are against ranked teams, and the most recent was a road win in Waco.

“We had a lot of respect for Tech before that happened, but since it happened, that should get their attention for sure,” Kruger said.

Ready to play the slow game

Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler would be happy if the Sooners were to win in a low-scoring, defensive game against Texas Tech. Kruger knows that running sets late in the Big 12 season can be more difficult, forcing the game into a grind and a half-court contest.

The Sooners’ offense is stuck in the mud, a little bit.

“It’s always a grind,” Hield said. “We’ve got to make shots. I’ve got to be a better job of being more efficient. . . . We’re gonna pick up our offense better. Once we start clicking, hopefully it’s gonna come during March Madness.”

It probably won’t come Wednesday night against Texas Tech, which has allowed the fourth-fewest field goal attempts in the Big 12. The Red Raiders have the third-fewest turnovers in the league.

They want to slow everything down.

“We have to compete a little bit more for a better shot, whether it’s a better screen or an extra pass or whatever or executing better,” Kruger said. “Once you get into conference play, typically the pace goes down, and it’s more half court. That hasn’t been our forte to this point. We have to figure out how to play in a way that we get better results.”

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