Opportunity awaits OU at Texas Tech
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
2/20/13 at 4:48 AM
NORMAN - One year ago Oklahoma traveled to Texas Tech and played the lowly Red Raiders before a friends-and-family crowd.
The Sooners had already beaten Tech once. And while they were nothing special at the time, everyone figured they would gain a sweep in Lubbock.
"We went into Texas Tech last year thinking, 'Oh, we beat 'em at home. We're gonna beat 'em there,' " OU guard Sam Grooms said. "And they punched us in the mouth, basically. Fact."
Tech had been waiting all year to hit somebody. The Red Raiders were 0-11 in the Big 12 Conference at the time. They would finish 1-17.
And while the Sooners came in a respectable 13-10, they would finish 1-8 on the road in the league. This was a team the Red Raiders could pick on, at least in Lubbock, and that's exactly what they did in a 65-47 trouncing.
Wednesday, in the same nearly-vacant arena against a similarly-lacking Red Raiders team they have already beaten once, the Sooners expect things to be different.
It's nothing personal over the 18-point setback. It's simply that things have changed in a year's time.
Last February, the Sooners were in the midst of a six-game losing streak and slogging toward a 5-13 Big 12 finish. Wednesday, they come in 16-8 overall, 7-5 in the conference and on track to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009.
The turnaround is reflected most of all on the road. The Sooners have won at West Virginia and Baylor. They nearly won at Oklahoma State last Saturday. They stayed in games at Kansas State and Kansas despite struggling offensively. Their only road no-show was at Iowa State Feb. 4 (an 83-64 loss).
The Sooners would prefer a better league road record than 2-4. But then, they won a total of two Big 12 road games the previous three years. That's some measure of progress.
And then there is this: OU could be favored in its final three conference road games at Tech, Texas and TCU (combined conference record: 6-30). Win those three, the Sooners won't spend Selection Sunday worrying whether they're in the tournament. They'll be wondering about seed and regional assignment.
"The opportunity is definitely there to win those games," forward Romero Osby said. "But at the same time, we've got to go out there with energy. We have to fight. We've got to be able to make plays."
Which resets the table for Wednesday. Last year, as Osby said: "It didn't seem like we had any energy. It seemed like everybody was lethargic. They snuck up on us and before we knew it they were up 16 or 17 points. That's what happens to you in the Big 12. That's what happens to you on the road, if you're not ready to play, not ready to execute, and you take the other team lightly."
Iowa State aside, that hasn't been an issue for this OU bunch.
"They've been consistent with their focus and their competitiveness," coach Lon Kruger said.
The difference between last year and this?
"Maturity," Grooms said. "We have a good group of older guys that understand the ropes. It takes some losses, some knocks and bruises, to understand what you have to do to win on the road."
OU got big games from seniors Grooms, Osby and Steven Pledger and nearly won in Stillwater. Osby led the charge at West Virginia. Pledger scored 20 at Baylor.
But it's not just seniors who have changed OU's identity.
"We have more depth," Pledger said. "We can go 15 minutes and then get a rest."
Oklahoma (16-8, 7-5 Big 12)
|Ht. ||Pt.|| Reb.|
|F ||M’Baye ||6-9 ||10.3|| 5.5|
|F|| Osby ||6-8 ||14.0|| 7.0|
|G|| Hornbeak ||6-3|| 5.4 ||2.6|
|G|| Pledger ||6-4 ||10.9|| 3.1|
|G ||Cousins|| 6-3 ||3.1 ||2.1|
Texas Tech (9-14, 2-10 Big 12)
|Ht. ||Pt.|| Reb.|
|F ||Kravic ||6-11|| 9.0 ||5.2|
|F ||Tolbert ||6-7 ||9.2 ||5.6|
|G|| Hannahs ||6-4|| 6.6||1.0|
|G ||Gray|| 6-1|| 8.8|| 3.2*|
|G ||Williams ||6-4 ||5.2 ||2.3|
*assists per game
Oklahoma at Texas Tech
6 p.m. Wednesday
United Spirit Arena, Lubbock,
Radio: KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Opportunity awaits OU at Tech
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355