The Red Raiders seem to be drawn to close games. But for the second consecutive contest, Texas Tech was able to pull out a late victory — this time defeating No. 9 Oklahoma 57-52 to end the Sooners’ five-game winning streak.
Here are three takeaways from Tech’s victory.
In a game where Mac McClung had zero made field goals against an Oklahoma team who has won three-straight against top-10 squads, it does not take an advanced metric system to know that the likelihood of winning is not great.
However, metrics do count for guys like Clarence Nadolny having his best game of the season. While the Red Raiders star was locked down all night, they relied on a slew of unsung heroes and hardnose defense to garner their second top-10 victory of the season.
Nadolny got his scoring started with just his fourth 3-pointer of the year 9:56 into the game.
Although he tallied just seven points over the course of the game, which is 5.3 higher than his season average, Nadolny contributed in multiple aspects of the game on both sides of the court — including recording the final rebound of the game with two seconds left to send Oklahoma home empty-handed.
Through 15 minutes of play, his second-highest this season, Nadolny recorded the second-highest plus/minus on the team at plus-12.
His performance did not go unnoticed by his teammates or head coach Chris Beard.
“I am so proud of Clarence running his own race,” said Beard. “My opinion of him has never wavered. He has been given a really good opportunity, now, and is making the most of it.”
The Red Raiders needed more than a stellar performance from the France native to pull out the win.
Freshman Tyreek Smith pulled down a career-high eight rebounds, tied for the most by any player on either team.
Glue guys such as McCullar and Terrence Shannon, Jr. made big baskets late to help create a 10-point lead that proved to be insurmountable.
The point of separation, or so it appeared, came when McCullar and Shannon, Jr. made consecutive 3-pointers. The back-to-back jacks gave the Red Raiders a double-digit lead with 3:21 left.
After Oklahoma went on a quick 7-0 run over the course of 86 seconds, Tech relied on free throws to close out the game. With the game on the line, Shannon, Jr. made a pair of foul shots to stretch the lead to two possessions with 14 seconds left, 56-52.
When asked how he felt during the game-clinching free throws, Shannon, Jr. responded simply.
“It was cash.”
Shannon, Jr. and McCullar led Tech in scoring with 15 and 13, respectively.
Good looks were a rarity in the first half, thanks to suffocating defense from both teams.
Neither team was able to establish a rhythm offensively, with Tech’s 34.5% shooting percentage being the superior of the two squads — compared to 25.9% for Oklahoma.
However, it was the Sooners who struggled the most.
Aside from nine points off fast breaks following Red Raider turnovers, the Sooners scored just nine points on 3-for-23 from the field in the half.
Beard alluded to the fact that the Red Raiders benefitted from a poor shooting night from the Sooners.
“We had an awareness tonight, a willingness to play defense,” said Beard.” We did a good job not fouling in big moments. A big part of this game is making shots. I know if Oklahoma goes 12-22, there’s a different feel.”
However, Oklahoma’s offensive struggles were not all self-inflicted, but rather a result of a lively Tech defense, as well. While six of Oklahoma’s possessions ended in turnovers in the half, the Sooners still missed 20 shots, most of them contested, including nine 3-pointers.
Texas Tech also out-worked Oklahoma on the glass. Over the course of the first 20 minutes, the Red Raiders won the rebound battle, 24-15, while holding OU to four offensive rebounds and no second-chance points.
Throughout the second half, the Red Raiders continued to pull down more boards than the Sooners, winning the margin by seven.
De’Vion Harmon has become Oklahoma’s star of late but was held to two points on 1-for-6 shooting while primarily being guarded by a duo that consisted of Kyler Edwards and Micah Peavy.
Harmon finished with 12 for Oklahoma on 4-for-15 shooting, including 0-for-6 from deep.
While the Red Raiders struggled early, as well, they salvaged the half with a quintet of baskets. Over the first 16:12, Tech shot just 27% from the floor, but a pair of field goals from both Kevin McCullar and Marcus-Santos Silva and a layup from Clarence Nadolny allowed the Red Raiders to enter the half with a 25-18 lead.
For McCullar, the offensive performance was not indicative of the team’s defensive effort.
“With our team, we are trying to focus on our defense whether the shots are falling or not.”
Defending the home court
Even though it was ugly, it was a much-needed win for the Red Raiders, who were in jeopardy of recording the most home losses ever by a Chris Beard-coached Texas Tech team.
Coming into the night, the Red Raiders were a staggering 1-3 at home in conference games, with all three losses coming against teams ranked in the top 26 — Oklahoma State currently on the outside looking in — of the AP Poll.
All 11 teams the Red Raiders have hosted this season have yet to play in front of a bigger crowd than the one they have faced in Lubbock. The Red Raiders finally took advantage of the 4,250 fans making up the socially-distanced sold-out crowd.
The win marked Tech’s first over a top-10 team inside the United Supermarkets Arena since Jan. 13, 2018, but, more importantly, it gave Texas Tech a season-sweep over the Sooners.
The Red Raiders now have four quadrant-one wins for the NCAA Selection Committee to consider come March as multiple more chances will present themselves throughout the month of February.
Beard stated how important it was to sneak this game out and how good it felt to win at home.
“I like that we are 57 and they are 52. The post-game meal is going to taste a little bit better. Tomorrow people won’t be honking about me on the Marsha Sharp [Freeway]. They’ll be waving.”
Find more Texas Tech coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.