NORMAN — For nearly four months, Oklahoma avoided crippling losses. That changed with Wednesday night’s 68-60 loss to Texas Tech.
It was a game the Sooners took for granted at the beginning and paid for in the end.
The Red Raiders played like a hungry team. The Sooners seemed to be satisfied with what they’d already done.
“I thought they were quicker to loose balls. They beat us to balls on the boards. We contributed by turning it over and giving them some easy ones,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “They set the tone. They got the result they were after and we didn’t fight hard enough in the first half. We have to learn from that and try to keep that from happening again.”
The lesson OU must learn is one it seemed to learn early in the season. Its sum is much greater than its parts. The Sooners do not have a player who can completely dominate a game. Cameron Clark and Buddy Hield have shown the ability to be dominant scorers, but not a whole lot else. Ryan Spangler has been a dominant rebounder, but games where he’s been a major scoring threat have been rare — especially as of late.
Jordan Woodard has been a better point guard than most expected, but has still shown the inconsistency of a freshman. Isaiah Cousins has been the steadiest of the bunch, but he isn’t someone who can carry a team.
Everyone shoulders a little of the blame. Clark couldn’t stay on the floor, Hield couldn’t make shots, Woodard struggled to get OU into its offense and Spangler did not rebound at the level he typically does.
Spangler didn’t hide the disappointment in himself Wednesday night.
“I didn’t think I performed like I usually do. I’ll take the blame for that,” he said. “I wasn’t hustling for rebounds like I usually do. I wasn’t playing defense or being a leader on defense like I usually do.”
So, how much damage did the loss inflict?
The Sooners (18-7, 7-5 Big 12) are still well inside the NCAA tournament bubble. They’re now alone in fourth place in the Big 12 with six games to go.
But OU entered the game at No. 22 in the Ratings Percentage Index. That will likely dip after the loss to the Red Raiders (13-11, 5-6). Texas Tech is an improving team, but it started the week at No. 128 in the RPI.
The Red Raiders will shoot up because they just got a top 50 road win. OU will sink because it now has a home loss to a team outside the top 100.
The good news for the Sooners is they still have six conference games left in the what is widely considered the best conference in college basketball this season.
The stretch begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater against Oklahoma State (16-8, 4-7). It will be the Cowboys’ second game without All-American guard Marcus Smart, who is serving a three-game suspension for shoving a fan last Saturday at the end of OSU’s game at Texas Tech.
There might have been a chance of OU looking past this game as early as Wednesday afternoon. But what happened Wednesday night was a reality check.
The Sooners are not talented enough to overlook anyone.
“We just have to approach every game like it is our last,” Clark said. “We didn’t come out ready to play. We have to learn from this. Everyone is good in the Big 12 and we have to play hard each and every game.”
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