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No. 7 Texas Tech beats No. 23 Oklahoma to remain atop Big 12

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Tuesday’s matchup between No. 23 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas Tech was a showdown of two of the top guards not only in the Big 12 but in all of college basketball, with freshman Trae Young facing off against senior Kennan Evans.

Evans won the duel, but it was a collective effort that saw Chris Beard’s Red Raiders move one step closer to their first conference regular season title since its first the 1995-96 season with an 88-78 win.

How long has it been since Texas Tech last won a regular season conference title?

The Big 12 had yet to begin play. The Red Raiders won the last Southwest Conference title before the merger with the Big 8.

Not only did Evans outscore Young, finishing with 26 to the freshman’s 19, but he also produced in a much more efficient manner. Evans shot 9-for-15 from the field, and while he finished the game with just two assists, the senior only turned the ball over once. Young’s night was much more difficult, as he shot just 4-for-16 from the field and missed all nine of his three-point attempts.

If not for his going 11-for-11 from the foul line, Young’s night — and that of the Sooners by extension — could have been even worse. The freshman did manage to dish out seven assists, but his struggles from deep contributed to the Sooners shooting just 7-for-22 from beyond the arc. Texas Tech shot 11-for-21 from three, shooting much better than it has throughout the course of the season (35.1 percent 3PT).

Young’s in the midst of a brutal shooting slump from three. He’s just 7-for-41 over the last four games and has now missed 16 in a row. Giving the freshman the freedom to make plays is critical for Oklahoma, but if he’s off it puts the Sooners in a tough spot. Against Texas Tech, others did step forward, most notably Christian James who scored a team-high 23 points, but it still wasn’t enough.

There’s certainly talent on Lon Kruger’s roster, and they’ll hopefully see Kristian Doolittle get into some kind of a groove down the stretch as he works his way back after missing the first semester.

But as Trae Young goes so go the Sooners, and it’s no coincidence that the team’s four-game skid has coincided with him going cold from three.

While the production of Evans and Young had a significant impact on the outcome, the overriding factor was Texas Tech’s approach on both ends of the floor. For much of the night Chris Beard’s team was patient offensively, working for the shots it wanted to take as opposed to allowing Oklahoma’s defense to dictate what they would do. Defensively they got after the Sooners, using a solid man-to-man for much of the night with a trap once the freshman crossed half-court to get the ball out of Young’s hands down the stretch mixed in for good measure.

That’s been the way the Red Raiders have played throughout the season. Texas Tech knows who it is and what is the most effective way to attack opponents, and rarely have they deviated from the identity that they’ve developed. There’s certainly experience on the roster, led by Evans with the likes of Niem Stevenson, Norense Odiase and Tommy Hamilton IV not lacking for it either.

But there’s also freshmen Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver, who are both averaging in double figures for the season. Against Oklahoma, Smith (13 points, four rebounds, three assists) and Culver (seven points, three assists) combined to score 20 points and dish out six assists with the former extending his streak of double-digit scoring performances to four games. While Keenan Evans’ mastery has been a key factor in Texas Tech’s run to the top of the Big 12 standings, he hasn’t lacked for help either.

With games to be played against Baylor and Oklahoma State, two teams looking to strengthen their respective NCAA tournament arguments, before the February 24 showdown with Kansas, it’s imperative that Texas Tech remain focused on the task at hand.

But if their play over the last seven games — and for much of the season overall — is any indication, sticking with what’s gotten them to this point won’t be a concern for the Red Raiders.

No. 9 Oklahoma hands No. 8 Texas Tech first Big 12 loss

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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.

Evans scores 32, Texas Tech tops No. 22 Nevada 82-76 in OT

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LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Texas Tech bounced back from a loss that knocked the Red Raiders out of the Top 25 by beating Nevada in the Wolf Pack’s first game in the poll in 10 years.

Keenan Evans scored 25 of his career-high 32 points in the second half and overtime and the Red Raiders rallied from 11 points down after halftime to beat No. 22 Nevada 82-76 on Tuesday night.

“Every game is big game to me but this one I guess was big because we’re trying to get back in the rankings,” said Zhaire Smith, who opened overtime with a dunk that put Texas Tech ahead for good. “That was a ranked team and if we didn’t win that, it was going to be hard to get back in the rankings until Big 12 play.”

Caleb Martin scored a season-high 28 points and twin brother Cody Martin matched his best of the season with 22 in the Wolf Pack’s first game as a ranked team since finishing the 2006-07 season at No. 15. Nevada (8-1) was off to its best start as a Division I school (since 1970).

The Red Raiders (7-1) went without a field goal for the final 5 minutes of regulation but made six straight free throws down the stretch, including two from Justin Gray with 23 seconds left to force overtime at 70-70.

Evans scored eight in the extra period, six on free throws as he went 13 of 19 from the line. The Red Raiders were 26 of 38 on free throws to 14 of 17 for the Wolf Pack.

“I thought free throws attempted was the difference in the game,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “I thought we shot the ball well enough to win. I thought we defended for sure.”

Evans had eight rebounds to lead the Red Raiders, who were coming off a loss to Seton Hall that knocked them out of the Top 25 the same week they got in.

Caleb Martin was 6 of 12 from 3-point range, including one that gave the Wolf Pack their biggest lead of the second half at 50-39 with just under 13 minutes to go. Martin had another 3 to get Nevada within two in overtime, but Smith answered with a layup.

“Patience isn’t one of my strengths,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “I give our staff a lot of credit tonight. We didn’t have any panic timeouts. We didn’t really get negative. We stayed positive.”

Niem Stevenson scored 11 for Texas Tech, and Smith had 10 points, six rebounds and three assists.

Kendall Stephens scored 15 points for Nevada, and Jordan Caroline had a game-high 12 rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Nevada: It’s a disappointing return to the Top 25 for the Wolf Pack considering they were up 11 in the second half. But the Martin twins having their best game together was an encouraging sign. And Nevada was in position to win despite a poor shooting night from Caroline (2 of 9).

Texas Tech: This was probably the best test remaining for the Red Raiders before the start of Big 12 play. It might have been enough to get them back in the poll, and Beard was complimentary of a rowdy student turnout that he thought helped with the comeback.

TURNABOUT

The Wolf Pack had a season-high 21 turnovers after committing a season-low five in an otherwise ragged win at UC Irvine. “We’re a tired group,” Musselman said. “That’s our fifth road game. I thought as the game wore on, the toll of travel, we didn’t play very good at Irvine the other night.”

UP NEXT

Nevada: Another ranked opponent in No. 20 TCU on Friday on a neutral court in Los Angeles.

Texas Tech: Kennesaw State at home on Dec. 13.

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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

Texas Tech pulls off another upset, beating No. 3 Oklahoma

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After picking up wins over two ranked teams in Iowa State and Baylor, Texas Tech entered Wednesday’s game against No. 3 Oklahoma in search of another quality win for its résumé. Sure enough Tubby Smith’s Red Raiders pulled it off, beating the Sooners 65-63 despite Oklahoma having two shots at the game-tying basket in the final seconds. Aaron Ross scored 17 points and Keenan Evans 14 for Texas Tech, but the key for them was what they were able to do defensively.

Oklahoma was unable to get out in transition for much of the night, and in the half-court they struggled to find the clean looks they’ve taken advantage of for most of this season. The Sooners shot 38.2 percent from the field and 6-for-23 from three, and Buddy Hield struggled as well.

Hield scored ten points in the first five minutes of the game. From that point on he managed to score just six, with the Red Raiders pestering him all night long. The national Player of the Year candidate began to press some as a result, leading to his turning the ball over five times. Add in Isaiah Cousins scoring ten points on 3-for-9 shooting and Ryan Spangler going for just five on 2-for-7 from the field, and Oklahoma didn’t have the offensive production it needed to win outside of Jordan Woodard’s 25-point effort.

Within a week’s time Texas Tech has gone from being a team well out of the NCAA tournament picture to one that has three quality wins many other bubble teams can’t match. Even with Toddrick Gotcher (who may have traveled in the final seconds) and Devaughntah Williams struggling offensively, Texas Tech went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma thanks to the contributions of others. Evans has been a much-improved player over the last four games, and forward Zach Smith added ten points and nine rebounds as he and Ross outplayed the Oklahoma front court.

As a result Texas Tech is beginning to add wins that will enhance a résumé that already looks good from a computer standpoint. The finish to the season won’t be easy, as the Red Raiders still have games on the road against No. 2 Kansas and No. 10 West Virginia to navigate.

That certainly looks daunting, but so did the three-game stretch Texas Tech just took on. And with the confidence that Tubby Smith’s team is playing with, anything is possible for the Red Raiders.