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Sooners' balanced attack to be challenged by Red Raiders' talented duo

Jan. 12—Through the first four games of conference play, it's already becoming clear that even the top teams in the Big 12 have to be ready for a battle every single game.

On Wednesday, Oklahoma came up short of upsetting No. 12 Kansas State on the road, as a 7-7 Kansas team pulled off the most surprising result so far this conference season in a win over No. 4 Baylor.

On Saturday, the Sooners return home with an opportunity to put their first conference loss of the season behind them. They host a Texas Tech team that's surpassing its preseason expectations at 2 p.m. in the Lloyd Noble Center.

The Red Raiders lost two starters from last year's squad that finished with the school's best record in 10 seasons (21-10), but still finished eighth in the Big 12 regular season standings.

This season they were picked to finish 10th in the preseason Big 12 poll, but started the season on an 11-game winning streak.

They beat Kansas by nine points and have found a dangerous one-two punch in Bailey Maupin and Jasmine Shavers.

Maupin is coming off a breakout freshman season in which she earned All-Big 12 Freshman First Team honors. The 5-10 guard has made jumps in points per game (15.4), rebounds per game (4.6) and assists per game (3.8).

Shavers, another sophomore guard, is averaging 15.3 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game. On Tuesday, she posted her second career double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to Oklahoma State.

Meanwhile, balance has been the key to the Sooners' success this season.

In Tuesday's loss to Kansas State, senior point guard Nevaeh Tot had one of her best games of the season with 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists. With one more point she would've become the sixth player to lead the Sooners in scoring this season.

The balance on this Sooner squad goes beyond the offensive end of the court. They're one of three teams in the Big 12 to rank in the top five in the league both scoring offense and scoring defense.

They've won low-scoring games while relying on their defense and they've had games where the offense leads the way in a runaway win.

It's still a young team that has gone through stretches that can undo some of those positive moments. In that loss to the Wildcats, the Sooners only allowed four second chance points and won the battle of the boards 49-42.

Still, over a stretch from midway through the second quarter until late in the third quarter, the Sooners went 1-21 from the field.

That won't be good enough to win against most teams in the Big 12 this season.

Tarik Masri is the sports editor for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing tarik@normantranscript.com