Little is worse than gratification expected then denied.
Texas Tech, coming off a very competitive loss at West Virginia, and having bounced Baylor in their last home outing, seemed primed to put it on the visiting Oklahoma Sooners. The 9,300-plus in attendance certainly felt that way. But all the fans got for their anticipation and their vocal support of the Red Raiders was an indigestible lump of disappointment.
As has been the pattern in most of Tech’s losses to good opponents, the Red Raiders were never completely out of this game. Tech fell behind by 14 points--an uneasy deficit to be sure--but it came with 4:02 left to play in the first half. There was still more than enough time for the Red Raiders to rally, and rally they did. Tech trailed by nine at the break, and slashed the Sooner lead to four on two occasions in the second half.
But although the Red Raiders hung tough, it is equally true that Oklahoma seemed to be in command of this game from the outset. The Sooners led from tap to buzzer, and looked like the more confident and comfortable team throughout.
And OU did it with defense. Lon Kruger’s squad deployed a trapping three-quarter court press for much of the game, and as a result, the Red Raider offense was never fully in sync. Tech turned the ball over an entirely acceptable 11 times, but recorded a fully unacceptable eight assists. There was just no rhythm or flow to Tech’s half-court sets. Execution, in the main, was poor. On all too many possessions, the Red Raiders were forced to go deep into the shot clock and then hurl up awkward shots from the parking lot.
The first half, in particular, was ugly for the home team. The Red Raiders, who had seemed to be slowly improving on offense, could muster only 29 points on 35-percent shooting in the opening stanza. Jaye Crockett, the chief weapon in Tech’s arsenal, went 0-for-4 with one rebound and a turnover. Toddrick Gotcher joined Crocket in the 0-for-4 Club. The Red Raiders recorded two assists and committed six turnovers in that half. It was the worst 20 minutes of basketball Tech had played since the Arizona State game on December 21.
And yet the Red Raiders trailed by only nine. With one really good run Tech could steal this game on a day when the stars were not aligned properly in the heavens. The Red Raiders made a run, alright. Two, actually. But in both instances, the Sooners had an answer and then some.
After Oklahoma extended their lead to 13 with 16:04 to play on a Buddy Hield layup, the Red Raiders went on a 12-3 run to chop the lead to four with 11:26 showing on the clock. Jordan Tolbert, Dusty Hannahs and Alex Foster all keyed the run with baskets, and Tolbert also contributed a spectacular blocked shot that led to a Hannahs run-out and old fashioned three-point play. Two Tyler Neal free throws stopped the run cold, however, and at the 8:38 mark, the Sooners were again up by eight.
At that point Tech authored a second mini-run on a Crockett jumper and a Crockett ally-oop slam off of a 40-foot feed from Hannahs, and the Red Raiders were again within four points with 6:27 still to play.
The Sooners responded with a Buddy Hield trifecta, however, and Tech never seriously threatened again.
Crockett and Tolbert led the Red Raiders in scoring with 14 points each, and got a great bench contribution from Alex Foster who kicked in eight points and eight rebounds in only 14 minutes of play.
Tech’s next action will be Tuesday night at Kansas State.