Not so long ago, the then-No.1 ranked Sooners were rolling along and could not have dreamed they’d be fighting for the lives tonight against a Texas Tech team that was mired in a streak of not being able to beat a ranked team. But that’s where we sit tonight as OU goes in an insignificant 4-point favorite over Tech in Lubbock.
Tech’s past two wins came against ranked opponents after being 3-52 in the previous 55 versus Top 25 opponents.
The Sooners have lost two of three but will focus on keeping alive the streak where they’ve not lost back-to-back games this season. OU last lost consecutive games January 19 and 24, 2015.
GOOD INJURY NEWS
Christian James’ 3-point shooting has been coming in handy for a 3-happy squadron with multiple players in and out of shooting slumps. Good news is that the freshman with the awfully smooth stroke from distance is healthy enough to be available (left ankle sprain in Monday practice).
You can bet Tubby Smith has learned from the way teams have been attacking Buddy Hield more aggressively with the “glue defender” – as Billy Tubbs used to call it – sticking with Hield and not ever playing help defense. KU’s Bill Self adjusted after Hield’s 46-point outburst in that triple-overtime classic in Lawrence between the Jayhawks and Sooners.
Self’s tenacious team defense the deadly accurate Sooners to 33 percent on its home court Saturday. And KU sophomore DeVonte Graham exploded for 27 points in KU’s win in Norman. More importantly, Graham frustrated Hield into four turnovers, zero first-half field goals and a 5-for-15 shooting performance.
KRUGER X & Os
The last couple of days Coach Lon Kruger worked on new ways to free up Hield and hopes his national player of the year favorite averages what he’s averaged in the three wins following OU’s first three losses: 25.7 points on 59.5 percent from the field and 52.0 from 3-point range.
No. 3 Sooners looking for a seventh win in eight games against the rejuvenated Red Raiders, who aim to beat a third straight Top 25 opponent for the first time in nearly two decades.
He'll need another big performance after the Sooners shot 33.3 percent and fell 76-72 to then-sixth-ranked Kansas on Saturday. Hield needed to score 18 points in the second half to finish with 24, going 5 for 15 from the floor.
THOU SHALL NOT AIM, GOTTA ROCK & FIRE
The Sooners must keep getting Jordan Woodard good looks and hope that he recovers from an impactful shooting slump. Make note of whether Woodard is releasing the 3-ball with confidence the way he did for so much of the season when he hit over half his threes and was leading the nation in accuracy. Or, if he continues the killer tendency most shooters struggle with when they can’t buy a basket: guiding, or aiming the release – the dreaded ‘hope’ shot.
After losing 13 straight to ranked teams before Wednesday’s upset over Iowa State, followed by an impressive 18-point win on the road in Waco against a potent bunch of Baptists, Coach Smith says his team has learned what it takes to win.
OU must lock in on Keenan Evans, who scored 17 against the Cyclones and a career-high 21 with five assists in the win at Baylor. Tech's 11-3 at home and will defend the dickens out of the Sooners tonight.
I anticipate the Sooners showing a few new wrinkles, getting and hitting more open looks from distance and playing with a determination from knowing that a loss in Lubbock would put them in a horrible predicament with 5 league losses while staring at road games in Morgantown Saturday and in Austin in ten nights.
PICKING SOONERS TO GET BACK ON TRACK
A couple of weeks ago it was hard to envision tonight’s game being so important. I’m taking Oklahoma to avoid their first back-to-back loss and to look more like the team we saw a few weeks ago and less like the one we’ve seen stumble recently.