In a matchup of two of the nation’s top point guards, both Trae Young and Keenan Evans would find it difficult to truly get into a groove from a shooting stand point. But Young would do a better job of getting his teammates quality shots, and his “supporting cast” stepped forward to help lead the Sooners to the 75-65 victory in Norman.
As a result there are no more undefeated (in conference play) teams in the Big 12, with Texas Tech dropping to 3-1 and Oklahoma boasting the same record. Here are three takeaways from Oklahoma’s win.
1. Trae Young was better in non-scoring areas Tuesday night than he was Saturday in Morgantown
As was the case in Oklahoma’s loss at West Virginia, Young struggled with his shooting in the first half against Texas Tech, but he finished with 27 points with 22 being scored on 6-for-11 shooting in the second stanza. However Young was able to get to the foul line, making nine of his 11 attempts, and even more importantly did a much better job of taking care of the basketball.
After turning the ball over eight times against West Virginia’s defense, Young cut that number in half against another quality defense in Texas Tech while dishing out eight assists. It goes without saying that the Big 12 is loaded with quality lead guards, so Young will be challenged consistently as the season continues to wear on. But there aren’t many defenses that can get after teams like the ones at West Virginia and Texas Tech. For Young to take some of the lessons learned in Saturday’s loss and apply them to Tuesday’s game, keeping his cool and not allowing the defense to get him out of control, is a good sign for he and the Sooners moving forward.
2. Texas Tech’s other starters had an uncharacteristically tough night on offense.
Keenan Evans didn’t have his best night, scoring 19 points but doing so on 7-for-17 shooting from the field and he also had just one assist (averaging 3.6 per game entering Tuesday). But unlike Young, who was joined by two other starters who scored in double figures, Evans had no such help as Texas Tech’s other four starters combined to score 17 points on 6-for-18 shooting from the field.
It didn’t help matters that forward Zach Smith was out with a right foot injury, with Zhaire Smith moving into the starting lineup as a result, but the game served as a reminder — if it was somehow needed — of just how much the Red Raiders rely on Evans offensively. Oklahoma limited his opportunities to make plays, forcing the senior guard into many challenged shots throughout the course of the night. Texas Tech received good scoring from its bench, with Jarrett Culver and Tommy Hamiltion IV scoring nine apiece and Brandone Francis chipping in with eight. But they needed more production from the remaining starters than what they received.
3. Khadeem Lattin was a star in the paint for the Sooners.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Lattin last scored in double figures in Oklahoma’s win over North Texas on November 30. Since then he’s had as many eight-point efforts as scoreless ones: two. Against Texas Tech the senior forward’s presence was felt on both ends of the floor, as he tallied 11 points, eight rebounds and seven blocked shots in 28 minutes of action to supplement the efforts of Young and Christian James (15 points).
Lattin isn’t a “traditional” back to the basket big man who Oklahoma can clear out sides of the floor for and let him go to work. But that’s fine, especially when taking into consideration the presence of a playmaker in Trae Young who can set the table for Lattin and Jamuni McNeace around the basket. But if Oklahoma is to turn this run of success into a deep tournament run, they’ll need consistent production from Lattin with regards to both his defense and his offense. After a standout performance against Texas Tech, it will be interesting to see if Lattin can build upon it moving forward.