By JOHN SHINN
LUBBOCK, Texas — You know it’s your day when the highlight play of the game was one your coach couldn’t even see. That’s the kind of afternoon it was for No. 25 Oklahoma in its 74-65 victory over Texas Tech at United Spirit Arena.
The play came with a little less than five minutes left while the Sooners were trying to hold off another Red Raider run. There were only two seconds left on the shot clock and not much time for anything but a tip.
Jordan Woodard lobbed the ball at the rim as Cameron Clark got free from his man.
“I had to dunk it,” Clark said with a huge grin spreading across his face.
The play lifted OU’s lead by back up to seven and it never dipped below six the rest of the way. The crowd at United Spirit Arena, that had been raucous when Clark’s feet left the floor, went silent.
All OU coach Lon Kruger could do was smile. He was trying to get the attention of referee Gerry Pollard to get a timeout before Woodard lobbed up the alley-oop.
“There wasn’t anything I did on that one, other than fail to get a timeout in time,” Kruger said “… I’ll catch it on tape.”
The tape will show the same as it did in person: the Sooners (16-4, 5-2 Big 12) had a remarkable ability to answer every time the Red Raiders (10-10, 2-5) seized the momentum.
Clark, who scored 17 points, had a couple of those plays. Buddy Hield, who scored a game-high 18 points, sank four 3-pointers. The last came with a little more than 6 minutes remaining. Texas Tech had just whittled OU’s lead down to four points and was in position to seriously threaten. Then Hield popped open in the corner and buried the 3-pointer.
“As a basketball player, you like these type of moments. You want to prove everybody wrong. You want to show your coach that you’re able to step up in these big moments and I wanted to do that, and I had confidence in myself that I was going to do that,” Hield said. “That was being confident and, thank God, I was able to knock down a shot for my teammates.”
The Sooners were a different team Saturday. Winning wasn’t a shock. It was their third straight, but they showed maturity they hadn’t in previous games.
OU never trailed in this one. It might have blown a chance to blow out the Red Raiders. OU lead by 14 late in the first half. But it played the final 34 minutes with at least a two-possession lead.
Point guard Jordan Woodard, who struggled in the victory over TCU last Wednesday, scored 14 points Saturday and was the catalyst for the Sooners’ 38-29 halftime lead by scoring 11 points and handing out four assists in the first 20 minutes.
“I’ve been going through a rough patch, but my teammates kept me up throughout this stretch in Big 12 play,” Woodard said. “They kept me confident and found me in some good spots.”
The Sooners found a lot of good spots. They shot 50 percent (27 for 54) from the field. The shooting performance was OU’s best since shooting 50.8 percent against Mercer Dec. 2.
The Red Raiders picked up 14 points apiece from Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert. But Texas Tech shot just 42.1 percent (24 for 57) from the field. The 4-for-14 effort from beyond the 3-point line didn’t help.
Shoot well and defend and wins are typically the result.
“I thought our guys played really hard. Maybe for 40 minutes as consistently solid basketball as we’ve done all year,” Kruger said. “I think it took that to beat a Tech club that’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
The Sooners build some momentum at a critical time. They return to Lloyd Noble Center at 8 p.m. Monday to face No. 11 Oklahoma State. The first edition of Bedlam appears to be the biggest regular-season matchup against the Cowboys in years. Monday will mark the first they’ve met with both teams ranked since 2005.
The Sooners felt awfully good about where they’re going as they left Lubbock.
“We’re just trying to build,” Clark said. “We’ve been practicing for the last three days and we’ve made a lot of improvement in the last three days. It showed in this game, and we have to keep it up.”
OU basketball notebook
For the record: No. 25 Oklahoma improved to 16-4 overall and 5-2 in the Big 12 Conference with Saturday’s 74-65 victory over Texas Saturday at United Spirit Arena. The Red Raiders dropped to 10-10 and 2-5.
Tech falls into the trap: The Sooners had a wealth of success with their half-court trap Saturday. The Sooners had six steals and four of them turned into easy dunks or layups.
Buddy Hield had two steals and turned them both into transition baskets.
In all, OU forced 11 turnovers out of the Red Raiders and turned them into 14 points. The Sooners committed seven turnovers, but Texas Tech turned those into just three points.
Road warriors: The victory was the Sooners’ third on the road in Big 12 Conference play. Last season, OU only had three conference road wins the entire season (West Virginia, Texas Tech and Baylor). From 2010-13, the Sooners’ Big 12 road record was 4-28.
“This group is growing. I told them in the locker room afterwards. I thought the progress we’ve made since the TCU game on Wednesday is the biggest step we’ve taken in terms of understanding what it takes to compete every night out in the Big 12,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “We’re still learning, we’re still growing. But they’ve done a good job finishing ballgames. They’ve played seven ballgames, and they’ve all been single digits. They’ve all gone down to the last minute. You can’t simulate that in practice. The guys have grown and have gained from the experience. Most importantly they understand we’ve got to get a lot better.”
Cousins’ day: Isaiah Cousins struggled mightily in last season’s trip to Texas Tech. As a freshman, didn’t score a point and committed four turnovers in just 10 minutes on the floor. A year later, he had an efficient afternoon. The sophomore guard finished with seven points, one rebound, one assist and one turnover in 28 minutes.
Points were all Spangler lacked: The sophomore forward grabbed 10 rebounds, marking the fourth time in the last five games he’s had at least 10. He scored seven points, leaving him three shy of his fourth double-double in the five games.
Close again: The Sooners’ 8-point victory extended their streak of single-digit games to eight. The Sooners are 5-3 during that stretch and 7-4 in games decided by nine points or less this season.
Assists pile up for Woodard: Freshman point guard Jordan Woodard matched a career high with eight assists Saturday. He also had eight assists against Louisiana Tech and Baylor earlier this season.
For the season, Woodard has a 93-to-47 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Up next: The Sooners return to Lloyd Noble Center at 8 p.m. Monday for an ESPN “Big Monday” meeting with No. 11 Oklahoma State (16-3, 4-2). It is the first edition of Bedlam this season.