Who: Texas Tech (15-9, 5-7) vs. Oklahoma (20-4, 8-4)
Where: Lubbock, Texas, United Supermarkets Arena
When: Wednesday, February 17, 8:00 p.m. (CT)
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network
Notable: Texas Tech’s 18-point win over Baylor last Saturday was the largest winning margin over a ranked opponent on the road in Red Raider basketball history.
Quotable: “They [Oklahoma] have got a lot of balance in the lineup, but we've got a balanced lineup too. I think our guys are starting to understand what it takes. You have stop their transition. That's number one because they score a bunch of points out of their fast break. Then, you have to worry about Buddy Hield. That'll be a tough task for our team."—Tubby Smith previewing the Oklahoma game
The Oklahoma Sooners are ranked No. 3 nationally despite losing two of their last three games. Sandwiched around a three-point victory over Texas in Norman are a road loss to Kansas State and a home loss to Kansas. Those two losses comprise half of Oklahoma’s loss total on the season. It appears the Sooners will not arrive in Lubbock hitting on all cylinders.
But even with a burned piston the OU V-8 still churns out plenty of horsepower.
It all starts with reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, Buddy Hield whose 26 points per game is second most in Division I basketball. He also contributes six rebounds, two assists and a steal per game, while shooting a preposterous 50 percent from 3-point range.
The other big individual story for the Sooners is the play of guard Isaiah Cousins lately. Over the last eight games he is averaging 18 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals per outing while connecting on 55 and 57 percent of his field goals and 3-pointers respectively. Marking Hield well will not be enough to ice OU.
As a team the Sooners own wide shooting advantages over their opponents. OU connects on 47 percent of their field goal attempts and 45 percent of their efforts from beyond the arc while holding the enemy to 40 and 33 percent shooting from those ranges. They are also plus-three in rebounding margin and have blocked 55 more shots than their foes. The only chink—and it is a modest one—in OU’s armor is the fact that they turn the ball over 13 times per contest. That is not a terrible number, but neither is it a figure befitting the nation’s No. 3 team.
Whereas Oklahoma enters this game in a borderline slump, the Red Raiders are on a roll in conference play for the first time in the Tubby Smith era. Tech has won three of their last four games, including two straight over ranked teams Iowa State and Baylor.
The spur for Tech’s sudden emergence has been the play of point guard Keenan Evans. Over the last five games he has averaged 14 points per contest—roughly double his scoring average before that time—and capped the flurry with a career best 21 points against Baylor. For the season he now averages nine points, three boards and three assists per outing, and his 3-point shooting percentage has climbed to 37.
Forward Aaron Ross also continues to emerge from the woodwork and become a reliable performer. He has scored in double figures five straight games, and in Big 12 play leads the team with a 12-point scoring average.
Free throw shooting continues to be Tech’s most conspicuous strength. The Red Raiders shoot it at a 75-percent clip from the line, which is 17th best nationally.