STILLWATER, Okla. — After the brutal stretch of heartbreaking losses Texas Tech has had over the past month, many people figured that Tech was just going to roll over.
But those people don’t know these Red Raiders.
As they did after the one-point loss to Kansas to top Baylor at home a little more than a week ago, Texas Tech responded to a tough situation on the road.
Not only did Texas Tech look to bounce back from a tough overtime loss to Iowa State, but the Red Raiders got out to a poor start in Stillwater and trailed by 18 at halftime.
Led by Justin Gray — the heart of this Texas Tech squad — and his never ending grit, the Red Raiders fought back on the road but ended up dropping another to Oklahoma State, this time by a final score of 80-63 Saturday afternoon inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“Justin is a guy that has a lot of pride about him,” Tech coach Chris Beard said. “Your true character comes out in adversity. The first half, that was adversity in college basketball. I thought he was one of a few of our guys who wouldn’t quit. He really competed. Justin Gray is a warrior.”
Gray finished with a double-double, 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Keenan Evans led the charge once again offensively with 18 points.
The next closest Red Raider was Shadell Millinghaus with seven.
“Shaddy’s a competitor,” Beard said. “He’s a lot like Justin with the fact that effort’s never going to be a problem with Shaddy. I thought more than anything he just competed. I have a lot of respect for Shaddy. It’s been kind of an up and down year. … Shaddy has had some adversity in terms of, I’m sure, not playing as much as he would want and frankly as much as I want. Today, he’s a grown man. When the bell rings he answers the call. I was really proud to be Shaddy’s coach today.”
While the final deficit looks like Oklahoma State (20-9, 9-7) controlled the entire way, Texas Tech (17-12, 5-11) played much better in the second half than the first.
Tech outscored the Cowboys 36-35 in the second period but trailed at halftime by 18.
The first half was full of mental mistakes, too many to be had this late in the season by a team with so many upperclassmen.
Offensively, Texas Tech couldn’t get into any rhythm.
The Red Raiders finished with only four assists in the opening period as most of their offense consisted of trying to create something one-on-one off the dribble.
That approach led to eight first half turnovers.
On the other end, Texas Tech had way too many lapses.
A Cowboy was wide open underneath the basket early in the first half as the help-side rotation didn’t get back to him.
And a play later, no one picked up Jeffrey Carroll as he ran from end to end, without pressure, to catch the ball and score a layup.
There were more help-side lapses that, against a team with so many shooters, proved deadly.
Especially when the Red Raiders closed out with their hands down.
That allowed the Cowboys plenty of daylight to get a shot off.
In the second half, these mental lapses wiped away.
The Red Raiders were more aggressive in the half court, using the pass to shift the defense instead of the dribble.
Not only did that approach get multiple Cowboys in foul trouble, but it also put Tech in the bonus with eight minutes left in the game.
“We were just way more aggressive the second half than the first,” Millinghaus said. “Next game we just have to come out more aggressive.”
Defensively, Texas Tech seemed to remember more of the scouting report as the Red Raiders forced Oklahoma State into live ball turnovers and capitalized off those mistakes.
Tech outscored the Cowboys 22-12 midway through the second half.
Half of Texas Tech’s points came off of six Oklahoma State turnovers.
“We basically couldn’t guard them in the first half,” Beard said. “In those regards you sit there and you take it or you try to give your players a chance to maybe get back in the game. I don’t think there’s a difference between getting beat by 40 or 2. … In the second half we got very aggressive and basically played a defense that tried to take our Forte and Carroll and make other players beat us. I thought from their point of view, I don’t want to speak for Brad (Underwood), but I thought they panicked a little bit and made some mistakes. That was good enough to get us back in the game.”
But then the Red Raiders cooled off.
They got as close as six with 13:09 left in the game off a jumper by Shadell Millinghaus.
Tech didn’t get any closer as the Cowboys started hitting shots instead of turning the ball over.
And as Oklahoma State made shots, Texas Tech struggled to make buckets which allowed the Cowboys to run away with the game.
“Ultimately we were going to have to make some plays and play better than them to win the game,” Beard said. “That just wasn’t the case today.”
While the fight was there from the Red Raiders in the final half, a scoring drought of nearly six minutes is what came back to haunt them.
“We just needed to pick it up,” Millinghaus said. “We didn’t have that much intensity in the beginning. The second half it felt like we brought it more.”
Texas Tech led Oklahoma State 7-4 early.
Before the Cowboy 3-pointers started to fall.
A trio of triples - by Forte, Carroll and Dillard - ignited a 20-4 run for Oklahoma State as the Red Raider offense began to struggle.
There was too much dribbling in the half court for Texas Tech as the Red Raiders coughed up six turnovers during that time.
As Tech’s possessions ended with errs instead of points, Oklahoma State continued to score.
On the afternoon, the Cowboys shot 49 percent from the floor and 45.5 from the perimeter.
Jeffrey Carroll led Oklahoma State with 17 points, followed by Phil Forte III and Jawun Evans each with 15 while Davon Dillard added 12.
“Their four players did their jobs today,” Beard said. “With our team it’s hit or miss. If our four or five players could produce, we’re pretty good as well. But not today.”
Player of the game
Jeffrey Carroll finished with 17 points and six rebounds for Oklahoma State. He only scored five points in the second half, but his presence on the floor opened up more options for his teammates.
Why Oklahoma State won
Texas Tech was out of sorts in the first half. A team can’t have those kinds of mental mistakes and expect to win on the road, especially in the Big 12. Furthermore, Oklahoma State won the battle on the boards 37-18 and had 13 second chance points.
Texas Tech returns home to host Texas at 8 p.m. Wednesday.