By John Shinn
LUBBOCK, Texas — Oklahoma battled rain, sleet, snow and fog Wednesday, and that was before the Sooners even arrived at United Spirit Arena.
The weather, however, turned out to be a much bigger issue than anything on the court as the Sooners rolled to an 86-71 victory over Texas Tech.
The points were the only season-high set by OU (17-8, 8-5 Big 12). Individually statistics were another story.
Steven Pledger backed up his 18-point performance last Saturday at Oklahoma State with a season-high 22 points against the Red Raiders. Whatever wasn’t working earlier in the season seems to have been fixed. Pledger was 6 for 13 from 3-point range.
“Just getting my feet right and my mind set going into every shot,” said Pledger, who is 9 for 16 from beyond the arc in the last two games. “I tend to do a lot of thinking. I've had to calm myself down lately and just let it go.”
Romero Osby continued rolling as well with 21 points to go along with nine rebounds. The wild card that was thrown into the mix was Amath M’Baye’s first double-double of the season. The junior powered his way to 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. He even had five assists.
“He played great. Sometimes he gets down on himself, but we always try to stay in his ear about keep playing. Because he is talented enough to do that on a nightly basis,” Osby said. “Tonight, he looked like the Amath of old. We were excited to see that and happy for him as well. Down the stretch he could be big for us.”
It was all about offense for the Sooners. They shot 53.3 percent (32 for 60) and used that scoring ability to ward off Texas Tech runs throughout the night.
Sam Grooms came off the bench to score 12 points and register five of OU’s 17 assists.
“Guys really moved the ball well. Guys made the extra pass and they shot it with confidence and made a lot of good plays for one another,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “Anytime you put up 17 assists — that’s a big number — you like to see that. We got good ball movement. When you make that extra pass, the shooter has real good rhythm and shoots it better. I think that happened a few times tonight.”
Texas Tech guard Josh Gray will was a thorn in OU’s side all night. The freshman scored a game-high 26 points and blew by just about any guard OU put on him. Gray also nabbed four steals. He picked OU guard Isaiah Cousins’ pocket twice in a 14-second span with both steals going for easy layups.
The second steal cut OU’s lead to 68-59 with 9:16 remaining. The Red Raiders (9-15, 2-11) had it down to seven with just inside 7 minutes remaining. OU re-ignited, closing the game with a 16-8 run. Grooms scored seven of his points during the final run.
“Sam was really good again and it was great to see,” Kruger said.
The win was OU’s first in Lubbock since 2009 and helped them wash away the sour taste from last Saturday’s overtime loss at No. 14 Oklahoma State.
After it was over, OU once again had to fight the elements. The team left Norman earlier than it expected Wednesday due to the winter weather. Fog shut down Lubbock’s Preston Smith International Airport Wednesday afternoon. The Sooners had to take a bus back home.
At least they had something to feel good about during the overnight trip.