No. 3 Oklahoma has been regressing since the start of February, and a 65-63 loss to unranked Texas Tech on Wednesday night at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas, could serve as a blemish on the Sooners' resume when Selection Sunday rolls around.
Carlos Silva Jr. of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal captured footage of Texas Tech's final defensive stand just before the buzzer sounded:
Madness. pic.twitter.com/xM3gxWmUUL— Carlos Silva Jr. (@cmsilvajr) February 18, 2016
Oklahoma has now lost three of its last four games dating back to a Feb. 6 defeat at the hands of Kansas State. The Raiders, on the other hand, captured their first win over a team ranked in the Top Three since the 2004-05 season, according to ESPN College Basketball on Twitter.
Wednesday's game also painted a stark contrast between Big 12 teams headed in opposite directions of late, per ESPN.com's Jeff Borzello:
Meanwhile, Texas Tech has won three straight games -- each win coming against a ranked opponent. Unbelievable coaching job by Tubby Smith.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) February 18, 2016
ESPN Stats & Info pointed out that Texas Tech is 3-0 against ranked teams in the past eight days, which is stunning considering it was 3-52 versus ranked foes in the 2,258 days preceding the recent run.
The fact Oklahoma (20-5, 8-5) was even able to keep pace with Texas Tech (16-9, 6-7) on a night when its offense couldn't generate any sort of consistency was a relative shock.
The Sooners shot 38.2 percent from the field and 26.1 percent from three—including an 0-of-9 long-range showing in the second half—but 15 conversions from the free-throw line allowed them to hang tough.
Buddy Hield was uncharacteristically quiet in the loss, totaling 16 points and six rebounds while shooting 6-of-16 from the field and 3-of-10 from three. Jordan Woodard led all Oklahoma scorers with 25 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and a perfect 8-of-8 shooting from the charity stripe.
As a team, Oklahoma assisted on just six—yes, six—of its 21 made field goals.
Tech, meanwhile, assisted on nearly 46 percent of its buckets as Aaron Ross poured in 17 points off the bench and Keenan Evans paced the Red Raiders' attack with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Thanks to Wednesday's performance, Texas Tech has now defeated three straight opponents (Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma) ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
ESPN's Rece Davis was among those who has taken note of the Red Raiders' recent resurgence:
One more. How about Tubby Smith? All he does is coach em up and win.— Rece Davis (@ESPN_ReceDavis) February 18, 2016
Texas Tech has a chance to keep things rolling Saturday against Oklahoma State in Stillwater before returning home for a final four-game stretch that includes showdowns with TCU, Kansas, West Virginia and Kansas State.
That stretch isn't easy by any means, but a 2-2 or 3-1 showing over that span entering the Big 12 tournament could help propel the Raiders onto a more favorable line when brackets are released in a few weeks.
The story differs for the Sooners, who need to find their footing fast. Road games against No. 10 West Virginia and No. 24 Texas remain on Oklahoma's schedule, and a home date with No. 25 Baylor on March 1 could knock Oklahoma down another peg.
This season has proved the Sooners are arguably the nation's most dangerous team when everything is clicking, but reaching their potential and correcting some late-season woes before entering single-elimination play in March will be of the utmost importance moving forward.
Texas Tech's official Twitter account captured video of the team's jubilant locker room celebration and Tubby Smith's post-game speech:
Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger broke down how Texas Tech shut down a potential game-winning look for Hield.
"We were looking for Buddy (Hield) to come off a flare screen there, and they switched out on it," Kruger said, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Krista Pirtle. "And if they did that then Isaiah (Cousins) had the alley, which broke open decently for him."
"We threw different looks at him and wanted to limit his touches," Smith said of defending Hield, per Pirtle. "We played good team defense. When he wen to the basket, we sent people, more than one, to try and stop him. It was effective."
"We've learned from our experiences with close games," Smith said, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "The poise that you have to have. That's what is impressive at this point. We're playing with patience. With poise. We're not panicking. And we're aggressively getting to the glass."