The Norman Transcript

January 26, 2014

Red Raiders can’t catch Sooners

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

LUBBOCK, Texas — You know it’s your day when the highlight play of the game was one your coach couldn’t even see. That’s the kind of afternoon it was for No. 25 Oklahoma in its 74-65 victory over Texas Tech at United Spirit Arena.

The play came with a little less than five minutes left while the Sooners were trying to hold off another Red Raider run. There were only two seconds left on the shot clock and not much time for anything but a tip.

Jordan Woodard lobbed the ball at the rim as Cameron Clark got free from his man.

“I had to dunk it,” Clark said with a huge grin spreading across his face.

The play lifted OU’s lead by back up to seven and it never dipped below six the rest of the way. The crowd at United Spirit Arena, that had been raucous when Clark’s feet left the floor, went silent.

All OU coach Lon Kruger could do was smile. He was trying to get the attention of referee Gerry Pollard to get a timeout before Woodard lobbed up the alley-oop.

“There wasn’t anything I did on that one, other than fail to get a timeout in time,” Kruger said “… I’ll catch it on tape.”

The tape will show the same as it did in person: the Sooners (16-4, 5-2 Big 12) had a remarkable ability to answer every time the Red Raiders (10-10, 2-5) seized the momentum.

Clark, who scored 17 points, had a couple of those plays. Buddy Hield, who scored a game-high 18 points, sank four 3-pointers. The last came with a little more than 6 minutes remaining. Texas Tech had just whittled OU’s lead down to four points and was in position to seriously threaten. Then Hield popped open in the corner and buried the 3-pointer.

“As a basketball player, you like these type of moments. You want to prove everybody wrong. You want to show your coach that you’re able to step up in these big moments and I wanted to do that, and I had confidence in myself that I was going to do that,” Hield said. “That was being confident and, thank God, I was able to knock down a shot for my teammates.”

The Sooners were a different team Saturday. Winning wasn’t a shock. It was their third straight, but they showed maturity they hadn’t in previous games.

OU never trailed in this one. It might have blown a chance to blow out the Red Raiders. OU lead by 14 late in the first half. But it played the final 34 minutes with at least a two-possession lead.

Point guard Jordan Woodard, who struggled in the victory over TCU last Wednesday, scored 14 points Saturday and was the catalyst for the Sooners’ 38-29 halftime lead by scoring 11 points and handing out four assists in the first 20 minutes.

“I’ve been going through a rough patch, but my teammates kept me up throughout this stretch in Big 12 play,” Woodard said. “They kept me confident and found me in some good spots.”

The Sooners found a lot of good spots. They shot 50 percent (27 for 54) from the field. The shooting performance was OU’s best since shooting 50.8 percent against Mercer Dec. 2.

The Red Raiders picked up 14 points apiece from Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert. But Texas Tech shot just 42.1 percent (24 for 57) from the field. The 4-for-14 effort from beyond the 3-point line didn’t help.

“I thought our guys played really hard. Maybe for 40 minutes as consistently solid basketball as we’ve done all year,” Kruger said. “I think it took that to beat a Tech club that’s playing with a lot of confidence.”

The Sooners return to Lloyd Noble Center at 8 p.m. Monday to face No. 11 Oklahoma State. Monday will mark the first they’ve met with both teams ranked since 2005.

“We’re just trying to build,” Clark said. “We’ve been practicing for the last three days and we’ve made a lot of improvement in the last three days. It showed in this game, and we have to keep it up.”

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.