LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson likes his team's momentum heading into the postseason.
No. 20 Oklahoma won its sixth straight on Saturday and assured itself of at least a No. 3 seed in the Big 12 conference tournament with a 74-54 win over Texas Tech."It feels good," Sampson said. "We just got to stay focused. We got to keep working at it. You want to play your best basketball of the year in March."Kevin Bookout scored 15 points to lead the Sooners. Oklahoma (23-6, 12-4 Big 12) came out hot in the second half, scoring on five of its first six possessions to put together a 12-0 run and go up 42-29. The Sooners' run included two 3-pointers by Terrell Everett and the first points of the game by Oklahoma's leading scorer, Taj Gray, who had four in the spurt. He finished with 14 points. Everett finished with 12 points and Johnnie Gilbert had 11 rebounds.Oklahoma extended its lead to 67-48 with 4:35 remaining after an 8-2 run in which Lawrence McKenzie hit two 3s and a layup.Sampson used a car metaphor to describe what he told his team at halftime, when they led 30-29."Just attack, be aggressive," Sampson said. "The thing about starting the second half, it comes down to being a self-starter. To start the game, you have someone sticking the key in your motor. In the second half, you better be able to stick the key in your own motor."Oklahoma was on target from beyond the arc in both halves, with five different players hitting 3s and the Sooners going 10-of-18 for the game.Even in defeat, Tech (18-9, 10-6) secured the No. 4 seed in the Big 12 tournament, its highest ever. Coach Bob Knight said the Red Raiders need to toughen up if they want to take advantage of it."We're not as mentally tough as a team in this league needs to be," Knight said. "I felt in the first half, when we were staying with them, I felt Oklahoma was much stronger in that area than we were."Texas Tech has shown flashes of brilliance in the Big 12 this season, including a double-overtime win against Kansas and a victory in Norman against the Sooners last month."I think they were infinitely better (this time)," Knight said. "I think we caught them at a good time playing up there."Sampson said practices coming into the game focused on what the Sooners needed to do."The last time we played Tech, they really bothered us the way they dug down on the post," he said. "We really worked on that the last couple of days."Tech, which has lost three of its last five games by at least 20 points, hit only eight field goals in the second half and couldn't cut into Oklahoma's lead. Tech shot 35 percent from the field for the game, well below its average of 47 percent."We came out tough in the first half, and they came out in the second and just wanted it more than us," Tech guard Ronald Ross said.Oklahoma also crushed Tech on the boards, grabbing 45 rebounds to Tech's 33."Obviously our team is really improved," Sampson said. "I think the main difference from now and a couple of weeks ago is we defend and rebound. Those two things give you a chance to be a really good team."The 20-point loss was the worst for the Red Raiders at home since Knight arrived in 2001. Ross led Tech with 14 points and
Martin Zeno added 13.The loss left the Red Raiders two wins shy of a fourth straight 20-win season, something never accomplished in school history.