Lapses in Focus: You can chalk up Texas Tech's disappointing 15-point loss to Oklahoma to any number of things, but periodic lapses in focus are as good a primary cause as any. The Red Raiders played well enough to win for 31-34 minutes of the game. Unfortunately, there were three two-to-three minute periods—mid first half, late first half and late second half—where Tech simply fell apart. And at this level, six to nine minutes of bad basketball will doom you every time if you do not have superior talent and experience.
Therein lay a significant part of the problem. Because they are usually at a talent/experience disadvantage, the Red Raiders have to play very near peak efficiency to keep games within reach. There is little cushion. There is scant margin for error. And having to play your very best all the time is a very stressful thing. You can never relax your guard and take a possession off.
Maxing one's efficiency for 40 minutes requires monumental mental toughness. And this Tech team is not blessed with that sort of mentality. Additional talent and experience will someday lighten the burden and obviate the necessity for almost superhuman mental toughness. But it won't happen this year.
Hope for the Future: A couple of weeks ago I stated that if Josh Gray continues to develop, he will be one of the Big 12's best point guards by season's end. As evidenced by his play against the Sooners, Gray is indeed creeping into the conference's upper echelon.
The frosh from Lake Charles, Louisiana played the game of his college career against OU. He tallied a career high 26 points on 10 of 22 shooting, pulled down four rebounds, dished out five assists and garnered four steals while committing just one turnover in 36 minutes of action. Gray's six-point scoring jag midway through the second half, punctuated by two steals and layups, singlehandedly got Tech back in the game and banished Oklahoma's freshman point guard Isaiah Cousins to the bench.
Gray has NBA potential on down the line. Obviously, he must develop an outside shot, become physically stronger, and learn to play more solid and less gambling man defense, but he's got plenty of time to do just that. And if you've got an NBA talent on your team, you have Final Four potential if you can surround him with more solid college level talent. Jordan Tolbert and Dusty Hannahs may well be two pieces to put in place around Gray. Hard as it may be to believe, the basis of a foundation is in place.
Giving It Away: Don't let the 60-percent free throw shooting percentage against the Sooners fool you. The Red Raiders were much worse than that. While the game was still in the balance, Tech's percentage hovered around 50 percent. A few late makes, after OU had already clinched the win, made this stat semi-respectable. With reasonably good free throw shooting, this game could easily have been a donnybrook just like the one in Morgantown.