OKLAHOMA CITY- With their tournament hopes on the line Oklahoma’s touted trio finally clicked on the same night.
Great defense and rebounding led the Sooners past the Texas Tech Red Raiders, who entered the night ranked number 22.
The 65-51 victory pushed the Sooners to 17-11 (7-8 in Big 12 play), but most importantly kept Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament hunt. Oklahoma also moved to 2-0 in games hosted in the Chesapeake Energy Arena this season.
After the game, Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger acknowledged the importance of closing the regular season with a few wins.
“Every game is huge, the guy’s know that,” he said.
Fifty-one points was the lowest scoring output for the Red Raiders this season.
Kruger said the performance was one of the best defensive showings his team has had all season.
“I think it’d have to be one of them for sure,” he said.
“Kur [Kuath] I thought was big in there blocking shots and changing shots.”
Kuath gave the Sooners five blocks and three rebounds in his 17 minutes of action, taking pressure off the offense.
Kristian Doolittle and Brady Manek erased bad Bedlam memories with a strong outing. After combining for just 13 points against the Cowboys, Doolittle poured in 19 points and Manek scored 15 points.
“These last four games will determine if we make it or not,” Doolittle said.
“Attention to detail is something that will be heightened going forward.”
Doolittle’s outing was especially impressive as he was battling through a broken nose. For the remainder of the season, Doolittle will have to wear a protective mask on his face, something he’s still trying to adjust to.
“The hardest thing was just breathing,” he said. “I got taken out a few times because I was winded but I was able to fight through that.”
“It’s tough not to think about your nose when it’s broken.”
Battling through the adversity, Doolittle still was dominant in the paint.
“Doolittle looked like an NBA player out there tonight,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said after the game.
Doolittle set the tone down low, leading the Sooners to 36 points in the paint against the Red Raiders.
Austin Reaves also put in another good outing on the heels of leading Oklahoma in their last loss.
Opening the game with a deep three, Reaves scored all 11 of his points in the first half to put Oklahoma ahead early.
Teammate Jamal Bieniemy said Reaves helped lift the team early.
“It set the tone for the game,” Bieniemy said. “He helped lead the way to the win tonight.”
Oklahoma still has work to do to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but Beard said the Sooners are playing quality basketball.
“Obviously that’s an NCAA Tournament team there,” Beard said.
“There’s no question tonight’s game was very important for them.”
The Sooners have another tough test in their next outing.
Oklahoma will travel to play West Virginia on Saturday needing another win.
Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m., but pre-game coverage will start on 107.7 The Franchise at 2:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.