Oklahoma and Texas Tech are accustomed to low scoring battles. But on Monday night in Lubbock, the familiar foes took it to the next level.
Ultimately the Sooners five-game win streak came to an end, as the No. 14 Red Raiders outlasted OU 58-52.
"Proud of our guys defensively, just fought their tails off," Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger said after the game. "We just need to have a little more scoring, heck Tech's a good defense too. So it was the first one to 50 type mentality."
Missing starters Austin Reaves and Alondes Williams for the second straight game due to COVID-19 protocols, the Sooners were looking to defend their newly awarded No. 9 ranking in the AP Poll.
Though Kruger’s stout Sooner defense held Big 12 leading scorer Max McClung scoreless in the first half, a poor shooting performance of their own saw OU head into halftime down seven points.
"McClung is such a good player," Kruger said. "I thought our guys worked hard to take away what he likes to do most and did a good job."
Brady Manek and Umoja Gibson were the only two Sooners to make multiple baskets in the first half, as the team combined to shoot a dreadful 26 percent from the floor, including just 1-of-10 makes from 3.
De’Vion Harmon especially struggled with the offensive load squarely on his shoulders. Over Oklahoma’s five game winning streak, Harmon has come to life, averaging 18.2 points per game. He was named co-Big 12 player of the week after two strong games last week. But in Monday's first half in Lubbock, the sophomore star was held to merely two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
While Texas Tech didn’t fare much better (34 percent form the field), the Red Raiders dominated the offensive glass in the first half, pulling in eight offensive boards for eight second-chance points.
Manek and Harmon came out of the break firing, however.
After the team scored just 18 points in the entire first half, the Sooner duo combined for 10 points in the first four minutes of the second half, closing the Red Raider lead back down to a single point.
"I've got a lot of confidence in those guys, they put in the work," Elijah Harkless said.
"If they get an opportunity to shoot a shot, we all have confidence in them to knock it down."
Back-and-forth OU and Texas Tech would go, battling down to the wire.
The Red Raiders looked to bust the game open, taking a 10-point lead with 3:21 left in the game, but the Sooners would have one final rally.
Following a hard-fought make under the basket by Jalen Hill, Gibson swiped his fourth steal of the game and pulled OU within five points with a transition 3.
"Umoja's a big time competitor, big time worker," Kruger said. "I just can't say enough good things about him. You know he's gonna line up and prepare every day.
"Happy for him, proud of him."
Then following another defensive stop, breakout star Elijah Harkless, operating again on the left slide of the floor as he did against Alabama, backed into the paint and converted for a tough bucket to close the gap to one possession.
Harkless has embraced his role as more of a ball handler while Reaves has been out, knowing his team has confidence in him, he said.
"I just want to do anything to help the team," he added.
Texas Tech closed the game out at the free throw line however, sinking 6-of-6 chances from the charity stripe in the last two minutes, refusing to hand control back over to the Sooners.
In the losing effort, Gibson led the Sooners with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting, adding seven rebounds and four steals.
Harmon and Manek added 12 and 11 points, respectively, but ultimately were unable to overcome the absence of Reaves.
OU got desperate down the stretch when they didn't need too, Harkless said.
"We started gambling a little bit," he said. "Coach said we were playing good defense, they were just scoring mainly off offensive rebounds.
"If we could stop that from the jump, we'd have been in a better position where we didn't even have to gamble like that."
The Sooners will have the rest of the week to recover and prepare to host the Iowa State Cyclones. Tipoff is 11 a.m. Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
VIDEO: Sooner Sports TV