Catharsis! The Texas Tech Red Raiders finally expelled the agony that came with a winless conference record. And not only did the Red Raiders eject their gathering misery, they did so in grand, convincing style.
Plain and simple, the team that pummeled Oklahoma by 18 points bore little resemblance to the bumbling, blundering squad that not only lost all its prior Big 12 games, but lost them badly. The Red Raiders we saw Saturday night actually looked like a real college basketball team. They were fundamentally sound, they were balanced and they were well rounded.
Just look at the stats.
Tech turned the ball over only seven times, while forcing the Sooners into 16 turnovers. Tech held its own on the glass against the larger opponent. Tech managed to score 65 points, which is good offensive productivity for this team. Tech outshot the Sooners 43 percent to 33 percent. The Red Raiders hit 10 of 12 free throws and had an assist-to-turnover ratio of almost two to one. They got scoring from inside and outside, and they played better as the game went along.
Really, this was a total team effort and there was little not to like about it. The challenge now is to prove the team really has turned the corner, rather than that it can play over its head one time.
Addition by Subtraction: The biggest obvious difference between Tech's win over Oklahoma and its previous losses was the shortened rotation. For most of the season Billy Gillispie played 10 players significant minutes. Against the Sooners he went with essentially a six-man rotation.
Noticeably absent from the rotation were DeShon Minnis, Jaron Nash and Terran Petteway. It may sound harsh, but this amounted to addition by subtraction. This rotation was efficient because it was not wasteful.
To wit, most of Minnis, Nash and Petteway's minutes have been wasted minutes. For the most part, those players were simply not contributing to, but rather were harming the team's efforts. By giving those minutes to more productive players, Gillispie improved his team dramatically.
Minniscule: DeShon Minnis has played a grand total of five minutes over the course of the last three games. This statistic may be a verdict.
Resiliency: Tech's oh so predictable modus operandi through conference play has been to immediately fall behind by five to seven points, keep the game within reach for most of the first half, and then collapse within the last five minutes of the half and trail by about 15 at halftime. Effectively, the Red Raiders were toast before the second half even began.
Tech began the OU contest in traditional fashion, quickly falling behind by five points and failing to score in the first four minutes. Then the Red Raiders got it going a little bit and played the Sooners even for the next several points. But here, in the danger zone where Tech typically foundered, the Red Raiders instead came to life and knocked Oklahoma around. Not only did Tech erase a deficit, but actually took a five-point lead into halftime. Tech hadn't led a conference game at halftime all season.
Winning the first half allowed the Red Raiders to win the game.
Tyriffic: Tech point guard Ty Nurse connected on only two of 12 shots from the field, and usually, when Nurse doesn't have his shot, he doesn't have his game. Fortunately for the Red Raiders that decidedly was not the case against the Sooners.
Nurse played an absolutely terrific floor game, dishing out seven big assists, getting two steals and committing not a single turnover. He was also icewater when OU applied full court pressure in a desperate attempt to get back in the game.
There was a little big of Jason Martin in Ty Nurse last night. And Javarez Willis, who also had a superb outing, looked a little like Wendell Owens.
Psyching the Sooners: Tech won this game mentally as well as physically. As the Red Raiders inexorably built their lead through the middle of the second half, it was clear the Sooners lost their composure. Several of the OU players spent time woofing at each other, the Red Raiders and the refs. Tech unnerved Oklahoma, and the more the Sooners got flustered the worse they played.