The obstacles gradually piled up for Oklahoma on the road Wednesday evening.
The Sooners refused to fold, topping Texas Tech 75-74 in Lubbock for their first conference victory. But to get there, OU had to win in a way it hadn’t before.
First, OU saw its 9-point halftime advantage vanish following an abysmal third-quarter, where Texas Tech outscored it 22-8.
Then, OU junior Madi Williams, who leads the team in scoring and was fresh off of a program single-game record 45 points on Sunday, fouled out with 6:36 remaining in the final frame as the Sooners trailed 61-52.
Texas Tech, seemingly having an answer for every Sooner run, maintained a 6-point lead with two minutes left. Still, OU prevailed.
“I don’t know I’ve ever seen us as cold as we were in the third quarter,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “…And yet, I think that this is probably the best thing that could have happened to our team, because we had to win with defense.”
Indeed, the Sooners forced 17 turnovers, including OU junior Tatum Veitenheimer’s late steal to set up a Gabby Gregory 3-pointer on the Sooners’ ensuing offensive possession to tie the game at 70 with 1:24 remaining.
The Red Raiders responded with a lay-up on the other end before OU’s Taylor Robertson knocked down her seventh triple with 37 seconds left in regulation. She finished with a game-high 24 points.
Texas Tech notched another lay-up to temporarily retake the lead but OU had plenty of time to set up a final shot.
The Big 12 contest ultimately came down to OU senior forward Mandy Simpson, who drew a foul on the Sooners’ final offensive possession.
Simpson, a 50% free-throw shooter entering Wednesday’s trip to Texas Tech, didn’t falter under pressure, sinking the go-ahead foul shots.
“I just applaud her courage and her bravado,” Coale said, “and stepping to the line and just saying, ‘I’m going to do this for my team,’ and I felt like that’s what she did. The second one just couldn’t have been any more in the middle of the basket.”
OU stopped Texas Tech once more as time expired, improving to 4-5 overall and 1-3 in conference.
The Sooners’ defense certainly gave them a boost, limiting Texas Tech to a 23.5% mark from beyond the perimeter. OU also limited the Red Raiders’ free-throw opportunities, leaving them with 12 attempts to OU’s 21.
Having Williams, who posted 12 points, down the stretch undoubtedly would have helped OU, Coale quipped.
But the Sooners left Lubbock with a better sense of their potential.
“I think they’re understanding that there are lots of ways we can win,” Coale said. “It doesn’t have to be one player having the game of their life. It doesn’t have to be a certain five on the floor for a certain amount of time.
“They’re just lots of different ways to win basketball games, and the fun of it is seeing how many different ways you can do that. and I do think they’re starting to have a lot of fun playing, which is fun to coach.”
Next, the Sooners are at home, where they will host TCU at 3 p.m. on Saturday.