Sooners need to hold serve at home against Tech

Oklahoma assistant coach Ray McCallum breaks down Texas Tech and talks about Saturday's showdown between the Sooners and Red Raiders. Texas Tech head coach Bob Knight (pictured above left) is 2-5 head-to-head vs. Sooner head coach Kelvin Sampson (also pictured above right) while at Tech. Knight is also 0-3 vs. OU in Norman. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. at the Lloyd Noble Center.

NORMAN, Okla. — When Oklahoma takes the court at 8 p.m. Saturday night at the Lloyd Noble Center for a Big 12 South showdown with Texas Tech, they will be virtually in a no-win situation.

If the 14th-ranked Sooners, who are just one game behind Kansas in the conference standings with nine games to go, are going to stay in contention they must hold serve at home.

A win against Bob Knight's Red Raiders at home is expected. A loss would be nothing short of a disaster and put the Sooners two games behind the Jayhawks, and facing an uphill battle in the race for the conference title with five of their last eight on the road down the stretch.

"We're the hunted now," said OU assistant coach Ray McCallum on the Sooners, who went from being unranked to ranked as high as 11th in the nation with wins over UConn, Texas and Oklahoma State in the last month. "What we're trying to do is help our players understand that it's time to go to another level of intensity."

"That's what we're concerned about right now because Texas Tech is one of the hottest teams in the league."

The Red Raiders, who come into Saturday's matchup in fourth place in conference play at 5-2, are indeed one of the hottest teams in the conference having one eight of their last 10 and five of their last six. Their only two losses in conference play came against Oklahoma State (76-66) in the Big 12 opener on January 8 in Lubbock, and at Texas (80-73) on January 25 in Austin.

However, since the loss at Texas the Red Raiders are starting to hit on all cylinders with wins in Lubbock over Nebraska (84-68) and Colorado (97-90) on Wednesday.

"They can really score," said McCallum on the Red Raiders, who lead the Big 12 in scoring at 82.9 points per game. "They have good guards, they're scoring about 83 points a game and are a phenomenal 81 percent from the free throw line. Their backcourt could be as good as anyone."

Tech's trio starting guards are 1-2-3 in scoring for the Red Raiders. They're led by senior Ronald Ross (6-2, 185), who is eighth in the Big 12 in scoring at 16.3 points per game, fourth in shooting percentage and leads the conference with 2.44 steals per game.

Complimenting Ross is sophomore Jarrius Jackson (6-1, 185) and freshman Martin Zeno (6-5, 190). Jackson is second on the team in scoring with a 14.4 average, while Zeno averages 13.7, which is third-highest among freshmen in the Big 12.

Inside, the Red Raiders go-to guy is senior Devonne Giles (6-8, 225). Giles, who plays much taller than his 6-foot-8 frame because of a long wingspan, averages 12.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and is second in the conference behind OU's Taj Gray in blocked shots (2.11). Darryl Dora (6-9, 235), Tech's other starting big man, averages just 5.4 points per game, but is also a threat on the perimeter.

"Giles is a presence on the inside and we're concerned about Dora's ability to step outside and shoot, which means Taj and Kevin are going to have to go out on the floor and guard," McCallum said.

And then there's the man who makes it all happen — Bob Knight. The former Indiana head coach, in his fourth year at Tech, hasn't exactly been on speaking terms with OU head coach Kelvin Sampson since the 2002-03 game in Norman.

Knight was upset that the clock operators didn't start the clock fast enough on the final play of the game when Hollis Price drove the length of the court and hit a shot at the buzzer to force overtime in a game the Sooners eventually won.

But maybe it's Knight's lack of success against Oklahoma that puts the great sweatered one in a bad mood when he sees OU's crimson. Knight is just 2-5 vs. Sampson and 0-3 in Norman. The Sooners lead the all-time series with the Red Raiders by a 21-13 mark.

"Coach Sampson even mentioned that you know we're not going to get a call because we've got a Hall of Famer coming in here Saturday night," joked McCallum about Knight.

"These guys (OU players) know what Bobby Knight's all about. We understand this is going to be a big ball game. A loss would really hurt us."

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