NORMAN, Okla. — Adversity is something the Texas Tech men’s basketball team has been familiar with in seasons past.
“Adversity either makes you stronger or breaks you,” head coach Tubby Smith said. “Some of our kids have been bending, but they just haven’t broke.”
Smith saw that mental toughness displayed in his team’s 68-60 victory over Oklahoma at the Lloyd Noble Center Wednesday night.
Texas Tech almost squandered a 20-point lead but held on to win for the first time in Norman since Feb. 11, 2012, stringing together three conference wins for the first time since 2011.
“I think it validates and confirms we’re doing some things well and doing things the right way,” Smith said. “It tells me a lot about these kids’ heart and their toughness.”
The Red Raiders were coming off a 65-61 upset of No. 19 Oklahoma State on Saturday night in Lubbock. Tech improves to 13-11 overall and 5-6 in Big 12 play.
Junior point guard Robert Turner led Tech with 16 points, followed by senior forward Jaye Crockett and sophomore guard Dusty Hannahs with 10 each.
All but one Red Raider who entered the game scored as Tech finished the game shooting 45.8 percent.
“It was an all-around good game,” Crockett said. “A lot of guys contributed tonight. Guys were just getting after it on defense and with that comes good energy.”
For the second game in a row, the Red Raiders recorded 10 steals, scoring 14 points off the 14 Oklahoma turnovers.
“Once you get stops on defense consistently, your adrenaline rushes,” Turner said. “Defense makes good offense. That was big for us tonight. It really helped us out.”
Deflections have been a key statistic for Smith.
He wants his team to finish each game with at least 35.
“I would say we probably had 37 or 40,” Smith said.
Tech had 27 in the first half.
“That’s the main thing (Smith) was talking about was defense and deflections,” Crockett said. “That helped us win the game. ... He was pleased with that. We have to keep doing that moving forward.”
Senior forward Cameron Clark led the Sooners with 16 points and was Oklahoma’s offense early, scoring all 10 of his team’s points in the initial five minutes of the game.
The Sooners struggled from the floor in the first half shooting 28 percent.
Texas Tech went to the paint early and often, scoring its first eight points down low. Overall, the Red Raiders outscored the Sooners in the paint 30-28.
The Red Raiders’ play on the defensive end of the floor allowed them to hold a 37-21 halftime lead over a 28 percent shooting Oklahoma.
During the first 20 minutes, Tech had seven steals and scored 10 points off Oklahoma’s 11 turnovers.
The Sooners made a comeback in the second half converting on both the three-point play and shots behind the arc.
Oklahoma shot 53.1 percent in the second half.
“We didn’t do our job on defense,” Crockett said. “We had to stay mentally tough. Coach got on us and told us to stay focused because the game wasn’t over at all.”
During that time, Oklahoma increased its defensive intensity, scoring seven points off four Texas Tech turnovers.
“Even though they struggled to make shots in the first half, they made them in the second half which we knew was coming,” Smith said. “Forcing the turnovers they did got them back in the game.”
The Sooners erupted on an 18-2 run to cut the Red Raider lead to 51-48 before sophomore Dusty Hannahs drained a three-pointer to quiet the Sooner faithful.
“I’ve got to compliment our guys too for not losing their composure and staying focused and staying strong to get a hard fought and a well deserved road win for us,” Smith said. “They’ve been far and few between here at Texas Tech so we’re excited to get this one.”
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