Tonight’s game presented a first for Oklahoma this season: Can they answer a road loss against a ranked opponent with a win against another ranked opponent? They lost to Arkansas back in November, but turned around and played Portland. This time around, Oklahoma hosted the No. 8 Texas Tech Red Raiders after losing their first game against an AP Top Ten team in Morgantown. There was an uneasiness of what to expect in this game, but when you are in the hunt for Big 12 Championship, a win at home–even against an opponent of the caliber of Texas Tech–is a must.
“Another tough game, obviously. They are all going to be that way,” Oklahoma Head Coach Lon Kruger said in his opening statement following the Sooners 75-65 win over Texas Tech. “I thought in the second half, we had a little bit better spacing…little bit better movement, got some shots down to create a little bit of a margin…and battle and battled the rest of the way. But we expect that. Proud of our guys–it wasn’t a free flowing game, which we like, and to win one of those against a team that is very good at that…it is a very good step. ”
The night didn’t go as planned for Trae Young. He was supposed to lead the way against his Dad’s alma mater in what ended up being an emotional game. Things did not turn out the way as Young intended as he started the game 1-of-12 from the field in the first half. Those are numbers that you do not expect to see, and usually haven’t seen from the freshman so far. The word “freshman” hasn’t been used much when describing Young’s game, but to him, he was nothing more than just a freshman in the first half.
“Just to settle down. This game had a lot of emotion for me, and I let that…I played like a freshman in the first half,” Young said. “I just let that get to me in the first half. I settled down the second half. Like coach said, we got more spacing. Found my teammates and just focused on my shot and just settled down.”
Whether it was just an adjustment in the game or an inside motivational factor, Young made sure that he did not replicate his first half. That started early as he went 4-of-5 from the field in the first 6:09 of the second half, scoring 11 points on three 3-pointers and a layup. Young had a big second half in Morgantown last Saturday on 5-of-11 shooting with being 8-of-10 from the free throw line, too–but his efficiency to put the game away early in the second half against Texas Tech was the difference.
“Yeah…it’s always good to see the ball go through the rim, it just felt good,” Young said about bouncing back in the second half. “I was happy that was my first shot in the second half, so I just found a rhythm from then on, and I just let the game come to me…I was just looking to attack a lot more in the second half and be more physical in the second half.”
One of the surprises of the night was the extended minutes from sophomore Kristian Doolittle. He played over 20-minutes for the first time since returning from his suspension against Tech. Although he did not put up big numbers in the stat column, he was a +19 on the night. How close is he to be being back to 100% health?
“Not 100%, but he is working that direction.” Kruger said.” Doo is a guy that talks on the floor, is a guy that anticipates well on the floor. We need that defensively, and we need him to continue to make the strides that he is (making).”
Doolittle started 25 games a year ago as a freshman, averaging 9.1 points-per-game and 6.2 rebounds-per-game. His rebounding so far has been noticeable as Oklahoma has struggled rebounding on the defensive end.
Christian James played well in his supporting role again with 15-points on 5-10 shooting from the field, including 3-of-7 from behind the three-point line.
The Sooners will be back in action in another AP Top 25 matchup against the TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday. The two met recently, as Oklahoma beat them just two weeks ago in a classic 90-89 conference game. TCU lost another close game the following Saturday against No. 12 Kansas, 88-84. Young and the Sooners will need to refocus as a hungry Frogs team is looking to survive a fall to No. 9 in the Big 12 Conference.