By John Shinn
NORMAN — Oklahoma’s mixture of an over-reliance on 3-pointers mixed with a lethargic effort in the first half produced its most stunning loss of the season Wednesday night at Lloyd Noble Center.
The Sooners fell, 68-60, to Texas Tech — a team it topped 74-65 2 1/2 weeks ago in Lubbock, Texas.
What changed in 18 days?
OU’s ability to hit a 3-pointer or make free throws. It was just 6 for 27 from beyond the arc and 6 for 12 from the free-throw line.
Cameron Clark scored 16 points to lead the Sooners (18-7, 7-5 Big 12), but only played 26 minutes due to foul trouble. The bigger problem was Clark was 2 for 2 from beyond the 3-point line. The rest of the Sooners: 4 for 25.
Buddy Hield, who entered the game averaging 17.0 points a contest, finished with three on 1 for 13 shooting. Point Jordan Woodard was 1 for 6 en route to two points.
But those were the glaring statistics. Physically and emotionally, the Red Raiders (13-11, 5-6) showed up ready for a tough game. The Sooners did not.
“We didn’t come out ready to play,” Clark said. “I saw that from the beginning — in warm-ups.”
The last 16 minutes of the first half was likely OU’s worst stretch of basketball all season. It couldn’t make a shot, get a stop, grab a loose or ball or do much of anything at the level the Red Raiders were.
The Sooners had used 3-pointers to bury Baylor just four days earlier. Those shots were not falling Wednesday. Texas Tech contested them and chased down the errant ones.
With every miss, OU’s confidence dipped and it didn’t do much to get it back.
““Just a little bit,” Texas Tech guard Robert Turner said. “Like I said: they’re a good team, but they live and die by the 3 a little bit. They kept shooting them. For a minute, I thought they would get hot before the end of the night. We kept contesting their shots.”
Turner scored 16 points to lead the Red Raiders. Jaye Crockett and Dusty Hannahs both added 10 apiece. But Texas Tech only attempted 11 3s all night. Turner and the rest of his backcourt mates were willing to get the ball inside.
Texas Tech only shot 45.8 percent (22 for 48), but it got to the free-throw line 27 times, converting 20.
The Sooners settled for jumpers until the second half.
“I thought Tech got into us and did what they wanted to do,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “Credit Tech for that.”
The Sooners cut the deficit to three with 7:29 to go left. The run had nothing to do with 3-point shooting. Lifting the defensive intensity and a new-found willingness to go to the basket was the change. The Sooners finished with 28 points in the paint. All but four of those points came in the final 20 minutes.
Ironically, it was 3-pointers by Tyler Neal and Frank Booker that ignited the run, but four connectives steals that ended with three layups by Je’lon Hornbeak and another by Isaiah Cousins put OU back in the game.
“We knew we just had to withstand that run, when they went on a run,” Turner said. ”We did a great job of that and we went back on a run a little bit, started trading buckets and finished it out at the end.”
After OU cut to a three-point game, Hannahs answered with a 3-pointer. The Sooners never had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead the rest of the way.
The loss, which was OU’s third in the last four games, is the one that hit like a ton of bricks. It was the one that came on a night it was least expecting it.
Even worse, they could see it coming all night. OU’s only lead came on its opening basket. Texas Tech led for the final 30 minutes.
“Texas Tech set the tone and got the result they were after,” Kruger said. “We didn’t fight hard enough in the first half. We have to learn from that and try to keep that from happening again.”