OU basketball: Four things to like about a tough loss at Texas Tech

LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 13: Keenan Evans
LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 13: Keenan Evans /

There is no such thing as a good loss, but there actually were several things to like about the struggling men’s Oklahoma basketball defeat Tuesday night at Texas Tech.

To say the Sooners are going through a rough patch is a gargantuan understatement. Since sitting at 14-2 and ranked No. 4 in the country in mid-January,

Oklahoma has lost seven of nine games and is in danger of ending up exactly where it began the season: outside of the nation’s 25 best teams. In fact, that could happen as early as next week.

The Sooners entered Tuesday’s contest with Big 12-leading and No. 7-ranked Texas Tech in the 23rd spot in the Associated Press Top 25. Losing a game that was closely contested until very late to a team that is highly ranked and has not lost at home in 15 outings this season, may or may not knock Oklahoma out of the rankings, but it certainly is not going to help their case.

And the way they have been playing throughout the past month, the Sooners don’t deserve to be ranked. They have beaten the top two teams in the Big 12, but have also lost to three of the four teams at the bottom of the conference.

Oklahoma Sooners Basketball
Oklahoma Sooners Basketball /

Oklahoma Sooners Basketball

Outside of Texas Tech’s perfect 7-0 mark at home against Big 12 teams, Oklahoma is next best with a 5-1 record at home against Big 12 opponents. That’s the good news. You factor that with a 1-6 league record away from home, including six consecutive Big 12 road losses, second worst in the conference, and you get to the heart of the Sooners’ struggles.

Despite all of this, there were some signs in the Texas Tech game that Oklahoma is close to getting its act together and getting back in the winning column.

The Sooners did not fall behind early in this contest and have to come back from a large double-digit deficit. They stayed close with Texas Tech in the first half and even led for nearly half of the opening 20 minutes. Neither team led by more than six points until Texas Tech took a 79-71 lead with 2:02 remaining in the game. In several of OU’s seven losses in the last nine games, the Sooners have had to comeback from double-digit first-half deficits, but just didn’t have enough left in the tank to get over the top in the end.

Trae Young is looking to distribute the ball more and not trying to do everything himself on the offensive end. In a home loss to West Virginia, the only game the Sooners have lost at home this season, Young had 32 points, but just one assist. In the past two Oklahoma games, at Iowa State and Texas Tech, his point total has been down, but he had a combined 18 assists. Young had seven assists against Texas Tech, but he might have had four to five more if his teammates were able to successfully complete the play.

The Oklahoma scoring was more balanced in the Texas Tech game than it has been over the last half-dozen games. When Trae Young is struggling on the offensive end – which fortunately is not all that often – his teammates have been highly inconsistent and unable to step up and bridge the gap. Christian James has scored 22 and 23 points, respectively in his past two games, and Kameron McGusty contributed 13 in the Texas Tech loss. At one stretch of the season, McGusty scored in double digits in six straight games, but that had not happened in the last 10 games before Tuesday nights. It is good to see both James and McGusty finding their rhythm and scoring more consistently. Oklahoma really needs the production from both players, with more defensive attention being given to Trae Young.

OU is looking more to score in the paint and not be content to live at the three-point line.  In three of their last four games, the Sooners have outscored their opponents in the paint. Against Texas, OU outscored the Longhorns 56-26 in the paint. Texas Tech had two more points in the paint than the Sooners on Tuesday night. A good number of those 32 OU points in the paint came in the opening half with Young getting the ball to Jamuni McNeace and Brady Manek at the rim. Trae Young is also attacking the basket by driving more, and when he doesn’t score he is getting fouled and going to the free-throw line for free throws, which are almost automatic when he gets to the charity stripe. Eleven of Young’s 19 points came from free throws (11 of 11).