No. 7 Texas Tech aims to keep momentum vs. No. 23 Oklahoma
All season long, No. 7 Texas Tech and No. 23 Oklahoma have been shining examples of two different ways to win games and gain national attention.
Sooners star freshman point guard Trae Young erupted onto the scene during November and December by posting gaudy stats in the points and assists columns. He's already posted 43 or more points on four occasions and has dished out double-digit assists 11 times.
However, as Oklahoma (16-8, 6-6 Big 12) travels to play Texas Tech on Tuesday night, the Sooners' momentum has faded while the Red Raiders (21-4, 9-3) are gaining strength.
Texas Tech has used stifling half-court defense, boosted by its depth, to augment its motion offense. The Red Raiders shoot just 35 percent from 3-point range and rank next-to-last in the Big 12 in scoring offense but lead the conference in scoring margin.
Those things fuel Texas Tech coach Chris Beard's identity as an ordinary working man who talks about his love for burgers and barbecue more than his team ascent to the top 10 in the nation.
"The message from us is it's one game at a time," Beard said after the Red Raiders 66-47 at Kansas State on Saturday. "It's the Big 12. I've said it before: prince today, frog tomorrow. A two-game winning streak in this league gets you right back where you're in the fight. A two-game losing feels like your life's over. We've experienced both."
Following Oklahoma's 88-80 loss at Iowa State on Saturday, Sooners coach Lon Kruger was craving a little more grit and defense from his team.
"We've got to do a better job," Kruger said. "We've got to commit more to (the defensive side). We've got to be more genuine about getting stops. Haven't quite turned that corner. Certainly, a lot of improvement to make."
The Oklahoma versus Texas Tech matchup might be seen to some as a battle between the top two candidates for the Big 12 Player of the Year -- the Sooners' Young pitted against Red Raider point guard Keenan Evans.
However, that contest might have already been mostly decided, depending on how one looks at the qualifications.
Young leads NCAA Division I with 29.5 points and 9.4 assists per game.
Evans doesn't have those kinds of stats.
Despite producing 38 in an overtime win over Texas, the Texas Tech point guard averages 18.4 points and 3.5 assists.
But Evans' Red Raiders have won six straight and lead the Big 12, while Young's Sooners have lost six of their last eight.
And that points out the difference in priorities when Texas Tech hosts Oklahoma. The Red Raiders are trying to stay undefeated this season at home, which would allow them to remain at the front of the pack in the Big 12. Oklahoma, meanwhile, is just trying to stop its current slide.
"You've just got to take what we've done good and try to stress that and continue to do that," Young said following the Iowa State game. "We've had good stretches where we've played good basketball. So we've just got to get back to it."
Updated February 12, 2018