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Texas Tech drops seventh straight despite career performance from Josh Gray

Freshman point guard scored career-high 26, but Tech couldn't make the plays it needed down the stretch

Posted: February 20, 2013 - 8:53pm  |  Updated: February 21, 2013 - 1:31am
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Texas Tech's Josh Gray shoots against Oklahoma's Tyler Neal during their game on Wednesday in Lubbock. (Stephen Spillman)  Stephen Spillman
Stephen Spillman
Texas Tech's Josh Gray shoots against Oklahoma's Tyler Neal during their game on Wednesday in Lubbock. (Stephen Spillman)
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Finishing is the hardest part.

It’s the part in college basketball that requires between-the-ears resolve and toughness, the stage that can usually only be gained through the prism of experience.

It’s the part Texas Tech still hasn’t grasped.

The Red Raiders put together a number of solid stretches Wednesday night against Oklahoma, keyed by talented freshman point guard Josh Gray, but they couldn’t make plays when they needed them most in an 86-71 loss to the Sooners.

“I told the guys after the game, ‘You guys are playing hard, but the smart factor is what we’re missing,’” Tech coach Chris Walker said. “And you know what? You can’t rush experience. You just can’t rush it.”

It was the seventh straight loss for the Red Raiders (9-15, 2-11 in Big 12), who fell despite a career performance from Gray. The dynamic guard poured in a career-high 26 points — the highest total ever scored by a Tech freshman in a Big 12 game — to go along with five assists, four steals, four rebounds and just one turnover.

“That’s an unbelievable game for a freshman,” Walker said. “I’d like to see any other freshman in the country that’s actually had that game, other than (Oklahoma State guard) Marcus Smart.”

Time and time again in the second half Gray attacked. He scored or assisted on 12 straight points during one stretch, shooting life into a Tech offense that scored more than 70 points in a Big 12 Conference game for the first time since 2011.

But Oklahoma, led by Steven Pledger (season-high 22 points), Romero Osby (21 points) and Amath M’Baye (15 points, 13 rebounds) started hot and never really cooled off. The Sooners (17-8, 8-5), whose 86 points were a season-high, shot 53 percent (32 of 60) from the field and 47 percent (8 of 17) from 3-point range.

No matter what it tried, Tech couldn’t find an answer.

“A couple plays we didn’t execute on defense,” said Tech forward Jaye Crockett, who recorded 15 points and seven rebounds. “But they were just hitting shots. They were getting good looks and knocking them down. We got a hand up on some of them, and they just made them.”

Pledger nailed a season-high six 3-pointers, stretching Tech’s offense on the perimeter while Osby made his living inside, grabbing nine rebounds to help the Sooners to a 39-29 edge on the glass.

“A lot of guys made good plays,” said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, who watched five of his players score in double figures. “Tech hung in there and played awfully hard, but I thought a lot of our guys made good plays and shot the ball well. We just kept enough of a lead to keep Tech from making that big-time push.”

Tech needed a Clark Lammert 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer to cut the lead at intermission to 44-36. Five minutes into the second half, the Red Raiders trimmed the deficit to four, 52-48, on the third of Jaye Crockett’s trio of 3-pointers (tying a career-high), but that is as close as Tech would get.

During one four-minute stretch midway through the second half, Tech scored just three points while turning the ball over four times. The Red Raiders also shot just 17 of 28 (61 percent) from the free-throw line.

For a team with as small a margin for error as Tech has, that was enough to torpedo hopes of an upset against a likely NCAA tournament team in Oklahoma.

That certainly didn’t keep Gray from trying. Four separate times he stole the ball from Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins near midcourt and cruised in for layups. Though he shot 10 of 22 from the field and would like to have a couple of short misses in the lane to do over again, Gray’s grit was on full display.

“He’s not just a terrific young player,” Kruger said. “He’s a terrific player. He’s a guy that keeps pressure on you all the time, very quick with the ball. He’s got a good ability to get in the paint and finish plays. He’s very tough to stay in front of. Terrific player.”

 

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Making Progress

Watched this game and was happy to see developments. I like this coach and his attitude. I have a feeling that this team may surprise some over the course of the rest of the season.

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I also see progress.

What I don't see the point of, is not announcing publicly that Coach Walker is going to be our head coach the next four years. It's certainly not helping recruiting.

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