Comments Off on Defensive Battle Looms in Lubbock

For the second time in the past week, the Sooners are on the road to face a top-10 conference foe. No. 23 Oklahoma (12-2, 1-1 Big 12) heads to Lubbock to face No. 8 Texas Tech (13-1, 2-0 Big 12) and the Red Raiders’ suffocating defense. Tech is the top defensive squad in the country, limiting opponents to 53.1 points per game on 33.4 percent shooting. OU has been sharing in its offensive success, as eight of the nine Sooners in Lon Kruger’s main rotation boast at least three games of 10-or-more points. Oklahoma will need to continue to rely on each other and find the hot hand against Tech’s length and athleticism. The Sooners bring in a 3-1 road record and aim to earn their sixth road win over a top-10 team in the Kruger era.

The 8 p.m. CT matchup will air on the Sooner Radio Network (107.7 FM The Franchise in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa; Tune In Radio App) with Toby Rowland and Kevin Henry announcing. David Saltzman and Reid Gettys will call the action on ESPNews. Fans with proper cable verification can also stream the game on the Watch ESPN App.

• While both schools are known for their high-scoring offenses on the football field, Oklahoma and Texas Tech have produced some of the toughest defenses on the hardwood during the 2018-19 season. The two schools are both in the top 10 nationally for opponent field goal percentage and in the top six of KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency.

• Kristan Doolittle and Brady Manek have been key members of the OU offensive while big man Jamuni McNeace has been fighting an ankle injury. Doolittle and Manek have averaged a combined 26.6 points in their last five games. Doolittle has scored in double figures in four straight games (longest streak of his career) while Manek has scored at least 15 points in four of his last five games.

• Senior guard Christian James is one of only two guards on a major-conference team to be averaging at least 17 points and seven rebounds (joined by Max Strus of DePaul). The senior is averaging 17.1 points and 7.8 rebounds – both of which rank fourth in the Big 12. He’s produced a double-double in six of his last seven games.

• Oklahoma owns a 39-24 lead in the all-time series and has won eight of the last 12 meetings. The Red Raiders boast a narrow lead in the series (16-13) when the game is played in Lubbock. Tech has won its last three home meetings against the Sooners, with OU’s last win in Lubbock coming in 2015. OU has at least one win over Texas Tech in each of the last eight seasons.

• The home team has won each of the past six meetings.

• The Sooners are 9-5 against Tech in the Lon Kruger era. Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard, in his third season in Lubbock, is 2-2 against the Sooners while coaching the Raiders.

• Oklahoma is off to its third start of 12-2 (or better) during in the last four seasons. OU began the 2015-16 season 19-2 and saw a 14-2 start to its 2017-18 campaign.

• OU is 13-21 against opponents ranked in the top ten of the AP Top 25 during the Kruger era (5-11 on the road). The Sooners have at least one road win over a top-10 team in each of the previous four seasons.

• Tuesday’s matchup is already OU’s fifth road game of the season (most in the Big 12). The Sooners have compiled a 3-1 road record and are 8-2 in games away from Norman this season. OU’s three road wins are the most of any Big 12 team. The Sooners have won six games on the road or on neutral sites (not including “home” wins in OKC and Tulsa).

• In the months of December and January, OU is holding its foes to 43-of-172 (.250) from 3-point range – the seventh lowest in the nation during that time.

• The Sooners are 11-0 when outrebounding their opponents. In its 12 wins, Oklahoma is winning the rebounding margin by an average of 7.2 boards.

• OU opponents are shooting 37.5 percent from the field – the second lowest opponent field goal percentage in the conference and ninth nationally.

• Oklahoma leads the nation in defensive rebounding with 32.7 defensive boards per game. OU’s 43.5 total rebounds per game rank sixth in the country.

• Senior guard Christian James is fourth in the Big 12 scoring race with 17.1 points per game. With 954 career points, James is 46 shy of becoming the 45th Sooner to eclipse 1,000 points in an Oklahoma uniform.

• James failed to record a double-double in his first 104 collegiate games, but has produced at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in six of his seven games since. His six double-doubles are the second most in the Big 12. He ranks fourth in the conference in rebounding with 7.4 boards. James is averaging 15.1 points and 11.7 rebounds during the months of December and January.

• Sophomore forward Brady Manek ranks sixth in the Big 12 in rebounding with 7.6 boards per game. Manek averaged only 5.2 rebounds last season, but put on 20 pounds over the offseason to improve his physical presence in the paint. He has put together four double-doubles this season (had none his freshman year).

• The Sooners almost always have team success on nights that Manek is rolling. During his career, OU is 19-5 when Manek scores in double figures, 12-1 when he scores at least 15 points and 8-0 when he hit four or more 3-pointers.

• Graduate guard Miles Reynolds continues to make the most of his lone season with the Sooners, earning Big 12 Newcomer of the Week for games played Dec. 17-25. Reynolds averaged 12.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in Oklahoma’s two most recent wins (Creighton and at Northwestern) to earn the honor for the first time. Reynolds is Oklahoma’s third-leading scorer with season averages of 10.6 points, 2.9 rebound and 1.4 assists. He has reached double-digit scoring in six of his last eight outings.

• Graduate point guard Aaron Calixte ranks sixth in the conference in assists with 3.2 dimes per game. Calixte is averaging 8.7 points per game and has totaled 1,247 points in his career (1,125 came at Maine).

• The Sooners saw three players average over 13 points in the month of December in Christian James (16.2), Brady Manek (13.4) and Miles Reynolds (13.4).

• OU has won 20 of its last 22 games inside Lloyd Noble Center and 22 of its last 24 “home” games (includes victories in OKC and Tulsa). The Sooners have won six straight games at the LNC, last losing at home on Feb. 17, 2018 to Texas. Oklahoma is one of four Big 12 teams without a home loss this season.

• For the second straight season, Oklahoma began the year with an 11-1 start. Although they found success in both in the start of both seasons, the Sooners have completely shifted their style of play from 2017-18 to 2018-19. Head coach Lon Kruger has shown the flexibility to adjust his style of play to the personnel on his roster. Last season, the Sooners played a fast-tempo, high-scoring style through national rookie of the year Trae Young. As the first player to lead the country in scoring and assists, Young drove the Sooners offense to score 84.9 points per game – the fifth most of any team last season and the eighth most in program history. The Sooners’ 2017-18 tempo was the second fastest among major-conference teams with an average possession of only 14.0 seconds. Due to the speed of play and emphasis on free-flowing offense, the Sooners gave up an average of 81.7 points per game on the defensive end.

• This season, the Sooners are focusing much more on the defensive side – using their athleticism and length to force opponents deep into the shot clock and showing improvement in contesting shots. OU opponents are averaging 66.2 points per game and shooting 37.5 percent from the field (ranks second in the Big 12, ninth in the nation).

• Oklahoma’s defense has been especially disruptive late in the game. In OU’s 12 wins, its opponents are shooting a combined 33.8 percent (23.3 percent from 3) in the final 15 minutes of the game.

• OU has held its opponent to 60 or fewer points in four games.

• The Sooners have held their opponents to 30 or fewer points in the first half on six occasions this season (did so zero times last season).

• OU opponents have shot under 32 percent in five games this season.

• Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger has said all season that for the Sooners to be successful, they’ll need contributions from different guys each night. The Sooners have seen just that through their first 14 games as their roster features six players averaging at least six points.

• Eight of the nine Sooners in Kruger’s main rotation have at least three games of 10-or-more points.

• The Sooners have had at least three players reach double-digit scoring in all 12 of their wins. Oklahoma is averaging 3.5 players in double figures per game (3.9 over the last six games).

• Four different Sooners have led the team in scoring over OU’s last six games.

• Oklahoma is back at home when it hosts TCU on Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center. The 1 p.m. CT contest will air on Fox Sports Southwest.

• OU owns a 21-4 all-time record against the Horned Frogs and has won 13 of the last 16 meetings. OU leads the series 10-3 since the Frogs joined the Big 12 in 2012.

• TCU has never won in Norman, as the Sooners boast a perfect 11-0 record when hosting the Frogs.

• The Sooners and Horned Frogs faced off in a pair of tight contests last season, with OU coming out in front in both matchups. Oklahoma escaped Fort Worth with a comeback 90-89 victory on Dec. 30 and then won in overtime, 102-97, on Jan. 13.

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