Who: Texas Tech (12-6, 2-5) vs. Oklahoma (16-2, 5-2)
Where: Norman, Oklahoma, Lloyd Noble Center
When: Tuesday, January 26, 6:00 p.m. (CT)
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network
Notable: It seems like nobody’s talking about him, but Aaron Ross has played excellent ball as of late. Over the last four games the 6-foot-8 junior forward from Little Rock, Arkansas has averaged 13 points on 15-of-27 shooting, and has notched double figures in all of those games.
Quotable: “We are going to have to play a lot better than what we did against West Virginia. Last time we were in Norman, they beat us by 45. It was one of the worst losses I’ve been a part of. Our job will be to handle the ball and take care of it, which we didn’t do a good job against West Virginia. We need to push the ball in transition and get back in transition. Those two things along with rebounding the ball will be critical.”
For the second time this season the Texas Tech Red Raiders will face the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. But this time, instead of hosting No. 1 (Kansas), the Red Raiders will tackle a No. 1 (Oklahoma) on the road.
It doesn’t seem fair that Tech should have to go on the road to take on the nation’s No. 1 team immediately after suffering a gut-wrenching loss to No. 6 West Virginia only three days before, but Big 12 basketball has nothing whatsoever to do with fairness or pity. The best thing to do is put on the hard hats, forget about yesterday’s sorrows, and hit OU with everything they have.
Oklahoma has probably the best starting lineup in college basketball, led by possibly the best single player in college basketball. The starters are Jordan Woodard, Isaiah Cousins, Ryan Spangler, Khadeem Lattin and Buddy Hield.
The last-named of that quintet is presently the odds on favorite to win the Naismith Award given to the best player in college hoops. Hield (pictured above) averages 26 points, six rebounds, three assists, and one blocked shot per game. He also shoots 51 percent from the floor, 52 percent from three, and 90 percent from the free throw line. Draw your own conclusions.
Point guard Woodard averages 15 points, four rebounds, and four assists per game, while shooting 53 percent from distance.
Spangler averages 11 points and 10 boards per game, while also boasting a 3-to-1 assist/turnover ratio. How many power forwards in college basketball handle the rock better than the average point guard?
As a team the Sooners dominate every statistical category, just as one would expect the nation’s best team to do. If there are weaknesses, they lie in bench production and overall assist/turnover ratio.
OU’s top bench scorer—Dinjiyl Walker--averages only four points per contest, and his 13 minutes per game of playing time also tops Oklahoma’s pine-timers. If a team can somehow get the Sooners into foul trouble—next to impossible in Norman—then it might have a chance.
Oklahoma has dished out 266 assists while turning the ball over 227 times. That is an acceptable number, but not what one would expect from a No. 1 team.
Texas Tech continues to flirt with excellence, but as yet has failed to close the show. The Red Raiders routinely frighten ranked opponents before ultimately crapping out in the final moments.
An oddity for Texas Tech is that leading scorer Devaugntah Williams (13 points per game) has been a virtual non-factor in Big 12 play. Given his poor play of late, it would be a pleasant surprise if he made a difference against Oklahoma.
But just as Williams has gone AWOL, Tech’s bench has risen to the occasion. Justin Gray is usually good for double-digit scoring in a single half of late, while 6-foot-8 forward Aaron Ross (pictured above) has become a go-to shooter.
Because of the play of these players, Texas Tech has one clear advantage over the Sooners, and that is bench play. And in certain types of games, depth can spell the difference.