Jan. 29, 2000

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson knew Texas Tech was shorthanded, but in his mind, that merely made the Red Raiders more dangerous.

However, 18th-ranked Oklahoma (16-3, 4-2 Big 12) took Tech's best shot and then fought off the Red Raiders 78-61 Saturday.

Texas Tech (9-8, 0-6) whittled a 12-point second-half deficit to four with nearly nine minutes remaining, but the Sooners rallied to keep the Red Raiders winless in conference play.

Oklahoma star Eduardo Najera scored 20 points, including six in a key second-half spurt, to lead the Sooners. Kelley Newton added 18 points, J.R. Raymond had 14 and Renzi Stone 11.

"We knew we'd be in for a game," Sampson said after the Sooners won their second straight league game. "They've got some injuries, but sometimes a wounded animal is the toughest one."

Tech, already reeling from losing post player Andy Ellis for the season with a shoulder injury, was also without the services of forward Jayson Mitchell on Saturday because of a tender ankle.

Still, the depleted Raiders battled throughout against the Sooners before fading in the game's final eight minutes.

Rayford Young led Texas Tech with 16 points, and Moses Malone Jr. added 11, including 9-of-9 from the free-throw line, but the Raiders hit only 18 of 45 shots from the field.

Texas Tech pulled to 56-52 with 8:52 remaining on a tip-in by Mario Layne. But Najera helped give the Sooners a 58-52 lead on their next possession when he made a nifty pass to Stone under the basket, then scored on consecutive three-point plays to complete an 8-0 run with 7:25 remaining.

"He (Najera) is a special player," Sampson said after watching his star score 20 points and pull down 13 rebounds. "I don't know if he's the best. That's open to opinion, but I wouldn't trade him for anyone."

Tech had several opportunities to cut deeper into OU's lead, but poor shot selection on critical possessions spoiled the Raiders' hopes.

Oklahoma pushed the lead to 68-54 at the five-minute mark on consecutive baskets by Nolan Johnson. Raymond and Newton hit 3-pointers to help the Sooners pad the advantage to as much as 19 in the game's final minutes.

Texas Tech notched its final field goal with just more than three minutes left on a 3-pointer by James Ware. The Raiders managed only a pair of free throws by Malone the rest of the way.

"I told the guys I was pleased with the way they played," Tech coach James Dickey said, "but that isn't going to get it done. We've got to win."

The Sooners claimed a 39-31 lead at intermission when Raymond banked in a halfcourt shot at the buzzer.

"There were some critical points in the game," Dickey said. "One was when they hit the 3-pointer at the buzzer in the first half. That took away our momentum and gave them momentum."

The Sooners started the second half quickly, scoring the first four points and claiming a 43-31 lead with 18:31 remaining on an inside shot by Najera.