NORMAN- The Oklahoma Sooners had every opportunity to upset the number 15 ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders, but could never get over the hump and fell 69-67.
After falling into a hole early in the game, the Sooners battled back to stay within two possessions for a majority of the second half.
“It seemed like we were kind of digging back all game long, down six, down eight and get it back to one possession,” Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger said after the game. “Just couldn’t quite get a possession at that moment to get back the lead.”
Down the stretch, Red Raider standouts Terrance Shannon Jr. and Marcus Santos-Silva fouled out within 20 seconds of each other, paving the way for a dramatic final minute. When Shannon departed, Texas Tech led by seven points. But without their leading scorers, the Red Raider offense wilted in the final two minutes.
Oklahoma closed the gap to 3 points with 6.1 seconds left, but had to go the entire distance of the floor. The Red Raiders wouldn’t give the Sooners the chance to launch a three, sending De’Vion Harmon to the line to shoot two shots.
Harmon was able to drain the first, and intentionally missed the second, resulting in a Victor Iwuakor rebound and foul to earn Oklahoma two more free throws.
Iwuakor missed his first, and the Sooners again found themselves in an intentional miss situation.
What then ensued encapsulated the struggles the Sooners had all night long.
For almost two second, the ball bounded around the rim after Iwuakor’s second miss. Finally, Austin Reaves wrestled down the rebound and had what seemed like plenty of space, but he missed the put back and the Red Raiders escaped Norman with a win.
Sophomore Jalen Hill, who ultimately tipped the ball into Reaves’ hands, thought for sure the game was heading into overtime.
“I was on the right block, he was on the left one, I tipped it up and he got it and I got really excited,” he said. “I really thought it was going in, I was jumping up and down and next thing I know it’s coming off the side of the rim. It was a tough loss.”
Despite the close finish, the Red Raider defense frustrated the Sooners all game long.
Senior leader Brady Manek was held to just two points on 1-of-7 shooting, and Kruger ultimately made the decision to leave Manek on the bench in the final moments as the Sooners tried to claw back into the game.
“They’re ranked the best defensive team in the country… you know every night you play them it’s going to be tough,” Kruger said of Texas Tech.
Reaves was also held relatively in check. Though he finished with 14 points, Reaves shot an inefficient 4-of-14 from the field, and only added four rebounds and three assists. The near miss at the end of the game only compounded a tough outing for the Wichita State transfer.
“He’s hurting but he’s a battler and he’ll bounce back,” Kruger said of Reaves.
Shannon and Santos-Silva were also killers to the Oklahoma rallies all game long. Every time it seemed like Oklahoma could pull within one possession and take the lead, Shannon had an answer.
Shannon finished with a game high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field.
Santos-Silva was tough defensively all night, grabbing seven rebounds and pouring in 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
Not only was Manek held in check by Santos-Silva, but Kur Kuath also couldn’t get anything going for the Sooners, finishing with just two points.
Oklahoma also hurt their chances with a poor showing at the free throw line. Though they took 17 more trips to the charity stripe, the Sooners shot a dismal 17-for-27 from the free throw line.
Harmon was a bright spot for Oklahoma. Logging 38 minutes, the sophomore made play after play on both ends of the floor.
“De’Vion was great. Battled hard, works hard defensively, makes plays offensively… Battler out there on every possession,” Kruger said. “Really did a good job.”
Harmon, who finished with 17 points, 2 rebounds and an assist, said he was unbothered by the high number of minutes, and is happy to do whatever he can to try and help pull out a victory.
“I’m used to playing a lot of minutes but whatever I can do for our basketball team I’m going to do it,” he said.
Coming up short, the Sooners are close to being able to put it all together, Harmon said.
Hill said he thinks the ability to finish off the last bits of the game start on the practice floor.
“We’ve just got to stay locked in as a team more,” he said. “It starts in practice just going hard every play in practice so we push each other.”
The Sooners will have a few days off over the holidays before playing host to West Virginia on Jan. 2 at 3 p.m.