If the Big 12 women's basketball season goes the way many expect, it could be Baylor running away with the conference title and almost the entire remaining 9 teams in the league battling for second.
That's why there is so much emphasis on every game, and why ones like Saturday's 65-55 loss to Oklahoma hurt so much.
But in the case of the OU game, the hurt doesn't simply come in the fact THAT they lost, but how. And how the Lady Raiders lost Saturday makes it an even tougher pill to swallow.
After a first half that mostly went according to plan and Tech holding a one point lead, they were able to aggressively take the ball at the Sooners and get to the foul line in the second half, further complicating an already growing foul situation for Oklahoma along the way. However, there was one problem.
The Lady Raiders missed 10 of their 12 second half free throws. The final margin they lost by - 10. Now you can't necessarily expect they were supposed to make all 12 second half freebies, but even 8 or 9 and the entire complexion of the end of regulation changes and who knows what happens from there.
It hurts because the execution of the game plan (other than leaving Aaryn Ellenberg open for a couple of late threes), was pretty good. The Lady Raiders overcame an 8 point deficit in the first half to grab a 29-28 halftime lead and then in the second half trimmed a 12 point deficit down to a 4 point game at the 4:48 mark after a Chynna Brown 3 pointer made the score 52-48 OU.
But those missed opportunities at the line and throw in some other missed chances at points in the paint and the Lady Raiders missed a Sooner state sweep after winning in Stillwater a week and a half ago. And now Lady Raider fans can only hope this we won't look back at this loss as one of those they really needed to get where they want to go.
Wednesday is a chance for redemption though. It's a trip to Austin for a Texas team reeling with three straight conference losses (at the time this is written), and let's hope the seniors on this team will get something there that they never got in Norman - and that would be a win.
But if things go according to pattern in this league, it could come down to free throws and finishing close shots. Here's to hoping they left those issues north of the Red River...