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January 24, 2014

Tech hopes to bounce back

The grind continues for Texas Tech after landing back in Lubbock after an 87-81 loss at West Virginia around 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning.

The team did some limited work the ensuing afternoon and preparation for No. 25 Oklahoma really began Friday about 24 hours before a home game featuring what the Red Raiders hope is another quality crowd.

Better big man play and hot shooting from Dusty Hannahs also are on Tech's mind after six Big 12 games the Red Raiders have had realistic chances to win.

"It's very different from last year," forward Dejan Kravic said. "There were games last year we lost by over 20 in a lot of games. This year we feel like we can compete with any team. It's very different."

Down 20-10 to West Virginia midway through the first half, Tech cruised on a 16-0 run in about four minutes before giving a little ground and trailing 40-39 at halftime. Then the Mountaineers opened the second half on a 7-0 run and worked their way to 28 points in the paint in a game that would be remembered more so for incredible outside shooting.

The stats from Wednesday's game were pretty much even. Controlling the game in another area aside from Hannahs' seven-for-seven behind the arc, most notably defending down low late and getting the upper hand in a -3 rebound margin game, could have been the difference.

"I don't think we were very good on West Virginia inside," head coach Tubby Smith said. "That's where we've had some success. We've shot for good percentages from the inside, we've been good in the paint, but the other day we just didn't finish around the basket as well as we should."

Smith added he will need a better performance against Oklahoma (15-4, 4-2).

"Basketball is evolving to, 'beat you off the dribble and penetrate,'" Smith said. "Oklahoma does it as well as anybody in the league."

The Sooners do tend to take higher percentage shots. They have put up 776 shots from inside compared to 400 3-point attempts through 19 games. That's nearly a two to one ratio while the Red Raiders put up 1.5 higher percentage shots for every attempt from downtown.

At the same time, Oklahoma connects on treys 37.5 percent of the time to Tech's 34.1 percent with the Red Raiders having taken six more 3-point shots.

Hannahs, a sophomore shooting guard, appears to be breaking out of a self-described slump and could help even out the battle along the perimeter.

"Dusty is learning and has always been able to score," Smith said. "Being able to shoot, there's a difference between a shooter and a scorer and an all-around player. We're trying to get him to be an all-around player… I need him to just be better at both ends of the courts and then he'll be a total player. He had six assists (Wednesday), that's what impressed me."

Tech certainly has played well in the United Spirit Arena since the turn of the New Year. It competed with No. 16 Iowa State before being pushed away late, forced overtime against West Virginia and then defeated No. 24 Baylor last week before a two-game road trip.

The team spent a part of Friday handing out free T-shirts to students at the Student Union Building in conjunction with the women's team which was serving up free hot dogs to promote their 7 p.m. game against Iowa State following the men's game.

Another ranked team, another great challenge and another opportunity for the Red Raiders to step forward as a team headed on the right track.

"I can't wait to play in front of that crowd again," starting point guard Robert Turner said. "How loud it was and how they had our back, they always say the crowd is like a sixth man and it really was. It would be big to have a lot of people like that again."


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