Oklahoma basketball fired on several cylinders on Tuesday night at No. 7 Texas Tech. Unfortunately, one player who misfired was Trae Young.
The freshman guard scored 19 points but went a season-worst 4 of 16 from the field and 0 for 9 from 3-point range in an 88-78 loss to the Red Raiders at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas.
The 23rd-ranked Sooners (16-9, 6-7 Big 12) continued a slump that started in mid-January and continues to build momentum. They have dropped four consecutive games, seven straight on the road, six in a row in the conference and seven of their last nine games.
What was different about Tuesday night is the Sooners didn’t have to live and die with Young’s scoring. Christian James set his career high with 23 points, and Kameron McGusty came off the bench to score 13. The Sooners went 7 of 22 from 3-point range. James (4 of 8) and McGusty (3 of 3) accounted for all the makes.
But Young, who scored 27 points and handed out 10 assists when Oklahoma topped the Red Raiders on Jan. 9 at Lloyd Noble Center, went 11 for 11 from the free-throw line but struggled offensively.
Young handed out 6 assists but also had 6 turnovers. Three of those were in the final 8 minutes.
“He had 3 or 4 (3-point attempts) that were great looks. They were in rhythm and of a good length. He probably had 1 or 2 deep ones that he’d probably like to take back,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said on the Sooner Sports Network postgame broadcast of Young’s night.
The Sooners had the lead for the last time when James hit a 3-pointer to put them up 64-63 with 8:50 to go. Young turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions, and the Red Raiders (22-4, 10-3) didn’t trail again.
Keenan Evans led Texas Tech with 26 points. Norense Odiase added 14 points, and Zhaire Smith finished with 13.
Oklahoma’s late-game issues apparent
The loss on Tuesday followed a familiar script. It was a toss-up game with 5 minutes to go. But the Sooners balked defensively at the end.
The Red Raiders scored 18 points in the final 5 minutes, closing the game on an 18-10 run. The scenario was eerily similar to previous losses during the woeful stretch Oklahoma is on. In the last four Big 12 road losses, the score was tied or the Sooners had the lead in the last 5 minutes, but couldn’t hold on.
“We’ve gotta do things to get over the hump,” Kruger said. “Tech did that in the last 5 minutes, and we didn’t.”
All the losses during the Sooners’ four-game losing streak have been by 10 points or less.
Oklahoma tumbles down in the Big 12 standings
The loss dropped the Sooners into a tie for fifth in the Big 12 standings with five games to go. They are under .500 in the league for the first time this season.
Oklahoma returns to Lloyd Noble Center to face Texas (15-11, 5-8) at noon CT Saturday. There is still time to pull out of the tailspin. But Oklahoma has entered that critical stretch that decides NCAA Tournament seeding. It is still well inside the bubble, but all that momentum the Sooners amassed in December and January is gone.
Kruger hasn’t lost this team. Blowout losses are the sign of that kind of dysfunction.
“We have to put 40 minutes together. We haven’t done that,” Kruger said. “We’ve got do a better job valuing each possession and finishing.”