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How missed opportunities stifled OU basketball's upset bid of Texas Tech: 'We were digging back all night long'

Oklahoma's Austin Reaves, middle, looks to pass the ball as Texas Tech's Terrence Shannon Jr., left, and Mac McClung, right, defend on Tuesday. Texas Tech won 69-67. [AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck]
Oklahoma's Austin Reaves, middle, looks to pass the ball as Texas Tech's Terrence Shannon Jr., left, and Mac McClung, right, defend on Tuesday. Texas Tech won 69-67. [AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck]

NORMAN — OU forward Jalen Hill felt like each miss and rebound was a gift from God.

The Sooners were supposed to be out of the game in the final seconds. Intentionally missing free throws doesn’t always work the way teams plan.

Except, this time it did.


With 4 seconds remaining, Sooners guard De’Vion Harmon made his first free shot to get within two of No. 15-ranked Texas Tech. He intentionally missed the second. Teammate Victor Iwuakor grabbed the rebound and was fouled on the putback attempt with 2.8 seconds left.

Iwuakor missed the first, forcing him to miss the second intentionally.

Again the Sooners had an opportunity. Hill tipped the miss up from the right block. Senior Austin Reaves somehow leapt and grabbed the rebound for a clean putback from the left block.

But it hit off the rim.

“I got really excited because I really thought it was going in,” Hill said.

Jubilation of an improbable overtime turned into heartbreak for the Sooners on Tuesday night in a 69-67 loss to Texas Tech inside Lloyd Noble Center.

OU (6-2, 1-1 Big 12) had its chances, but missed too many for the upset.

The Sooners had long scoreless stretches. They made just 17 of 27 free shots, including the two intentional misses.

As the season gets deeper into Big 12 play, this could be looked at as a game that got away from the Sooners.

“We were digging back all night long,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “Down six, down eight, get it back to one possession or a chance to get ahead. Just couldn’t quite have a possession at that moment that could give us the lead. Guys kept scratching and fighting.”

Texas Tech (7-2, 1-1) brought its signature defense, hounding the OU offense and holding both Brady Manek and Reaves to a combined 15 points.

Even after trailing by 10 in the opening half, OU had key stretches it could have taken the lead or tied the game in the second half.

With 15:21 remaining, Kur Kuath’s layup put the Sooners within one. But neither team scored for the next 3 minutes until Texas Tech’s Terrence Shannon Jr. made a layup.

OU had four possessions in that period.

The first ended in three missed shots and a turnover. The next ended with a missed 3-pointer. An offensive foul followed. And the stretch was capped by another turnover.

Texas Tech built a six-point lead and the Sooners would again get within a point, but Gibson missed a jump shot and Shannon sank a 3-pointer.

OU again got within a basket, but went on another scoring drought that lasted nearly 4 minutes. Texas Tech also struggled, only extending its lead to four in the stretch before going up by eight with 2:55 remaining.

“Certainly their defense is good, that is a part of it,” Kruger said. “But you have to be able to make the extra pass and just grind a little bit harder, move the ball a little bit better.

“You are going to have those stretches. You hope to minimize them as much as you possibly can. But against good Big 12 defensive teams, it's going to be a battle every night.”

But even with the opportunities being so close and so far, the Sooners found a way to stay in the game.

They found that encouraging heading into an 11-day break before hosting West Virginia on Jan. 2.

“Man, we had great possessions,” Harmon said. “We definitely gotta get more stops on the defensive end. But man, we played a really good game.”

Jacob Unruh

Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the... Read more ›