No. 7 Texas Tech hosts struggling No. 23 Oklahoma in Big 12 play

Tommy Hamilton IV went through a bit of a resurgence over the weekend.

 

After missing the double-digit point mark twice in his last four games, the senior finally put it all together and enjoyed one of his best scoring nights of his Texas Tech career.

Hamilton IV, a 6-foot-11 forward, scored a career high 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting - including 4 for 4 from beyond the three-point line - to aid the No. 7 Red Raiders to a 66-47- road win over Kansas State.

“Just keep coming to work, try to take advantage of the things I see out there,” Hamilton IV said of what allowed him to surpass his 13-point mark set back on Dec. 19 against Florida Atlantic. “Just stay with the process.”

Texas Tech is hoping Hamilton IV, along with his frontcourt mate Norense Odiase, can play well when it faces off against No. 23 Oklahoma at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The game is scheduled to be televised on ESPN.

“When Tommy can shoot the ball like that, it just makes us tough to guard,” Odiase said. “It’s an added dimension to our team whenever he can spread the floor, run in transition, secondary break, get the ball and shoot it with confidence. It gives us an extra element to the team.”

The Red Raiders (21-4 overall, 9-3 in the Big 12), who have won their last six games, are looking to avenge an earlier loss to the Sooner (16-8, 6-6) back in Norman, Okla.

At the time, Texas Tech was still stinging from the initial loss of Zach Smith - who injured his right foot in the previous home game against Kansas State earlier in the week. Smith is still rehabilitating from the injury and attempting a return while his teammates have appeared to figure things out in recent weeks.

All it took was getting back to their identity.

“Taking our focus on defense more,” said Odiase, who finished with five points and nine rebounds in the loss to the Sooners back in January. “We’re bringing it everyday in practice.”

Odiase and Hamilton IV may be X-factors in the contest, especially with the improved interior play from the Sooners.

Freshman Brady Manek (11.4 points, 5.6 rebounds), junior Jamuni McNeace (5.8, 4.8) and senior Khadeem Lattin (7.8, 6.7) are expected to provide a strong presence inside the paint. Lattin, listed at 6-9, 220 pounds, notched a game-high seven blocks in the first meeting and ensured the Red Raiders would not get any easy looks near the basket.

Oklahoma also touts a freshman guard named Trae Young, who leads the country in scoring average (29.5) and assists (9.4).

“They’ve got two of the best interior players in the conference,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said of the Sooners’ complimentary pieces. “They have great outside shooting, they have big guards. They’ve got a great roster, it’s not just Trae. We respect everybody on their roster.”

To gain an advantage, the Red Raiders must play aggressive on the offensive and defensive ends - as they’ve done throughout their six-game roll.

In the win against the Wildcats over the weekend, Texas Tech yielded 20 points and held Kansas State to 5 of 19 shooting from the field to earn the grind-it-out road victory.

“The other day at K-State, I thought was one of our more consistent defensive efforts,” Beard said. “Not sure if we played a full 40 minutes. But at least on the defensive side of the ball we probably played 35, 36 minutes about as well as we can play. So you hope that there’s carry over. You never know, each game is so different. But certainly we want to be playing our best basketball as the year goes on. And it seems like our team is getting better in the last couple of weeks.”

Once again, the improvement can be attributed to defense.

“We are putting an emphasis on contesting three-point shots,” said Beard, whose squad is ranked fifth in scoring defense and 20th in three-point field goal defense in the country. “We don’t want to give just easy shots to the best shooters on the other team. … We’ve been fortunate, as of late, which you have to be in this game. And No. 2, it is a defensive focal point from our guys to try and pressure shooters.”

Creating constant pressure seems to be a recipe for getting Young out of his normal flow of the game, and comfort zone.

Yet, even with good defense, the 6-2 guard has still found ways to score but at the price of taking away his energy throughout the game.

In an 88-80 loss, Young scored 22 points but was not too efficient as he made 7 of 21 shots. The first-year college player also struggled to score in his first outing against the Red Raiders - netting 27 points on 7 of 23 shooting.

The difference was he found a way to earn free-thows, which is where he combined to go 16 of 18 in the loss to Iowa State over the weekend and the victory over the Red Raiders last month.

“With Trae it’s very difficult to pick your poison because he can beat you from the three-point line shooting, he can beat you with the assist, or he can beat you getting to the free-throw line,” Beard said. “He’s really a guy that can do it all three different levels. It’s really difficult from a coaching standpoint.”

 

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