Jaye Crockett and a cast of thousands (9,516 fans, that is) made certain that no last-second shot would be required. Texas Tech to a 21-point halftime advantage over the No. 12 Baylor Bears, and the Red Raiders had more than enough moxie to fend off the visitors in the second half, as Tech cruised to an 82-72 victory.
The win was shocking, but how the Red Raiders got it was dumbfounding. Tech essentially dominated this one from the beginning. Baylor scored the game's opening hoop, but that was the last the Bears would see of the lead. Heck, they never really got within spitting distance of it for the remainder of the contest.
Tech's play in the first half was as good a period of basketball as has been played by the Red Raiders since Bob Knight was at his zenith with the Red Raiders close to 10 years ago. Offensive execution was dazzlingly precise. Red Raiders carved up Baylor's zone inside and assisting passes were right on the money. Dejan Kravic was as much of a catalyst as Crockett in the early going as he dished out four assists in the game's first five minutes. The seven-footer finished with six assists, but should have been credited with seven.
In his postgame remarks, Tubby Smith mentioned that his team was energized by the large and boisterous throng, and this energy was very much in evidence. Tech played with a speed and quickness hitherto not exhibited by the squad. It was a classic case of a team hitting on all proverbial cylinders.
But as sharp as the Red Raiders were on offense, they were equally impressive on the glass and on defense in that first half. Baylor came into the game averaging 79 points per game, but Tech held the bears to a paltry 22 points in the opening stanza, and harried them into 26-percent shooting. Sure, Baylor missed a few shots they would normally make--the Bears, a 41 percent three-point shooting team went 0-8 from three—but such was the intensity of Tech's defense that Baylor rushed their shots.
The Bears also entered the game with a plus-11 rebounding margin, yet Tech owned the glass in the first half 22-12, and finished the game with a 35-29 rebounding advantage over the tall and wide Bears.
The Red Raiders didn't play nearly as well in the second half, but still did enough to ensure that they were never really threatened. The Bears did make a run, but it was too little, too late.
Critical to Tech's success in the second half were timely 3-point shooting and ice cold poise. On a few occasions early in the second half, when Baylor looked to be ready to mount a charge, Red Raiders stepped up to knock down treys. With 17:29 to play, Baylor's Gary Franklin hit a three-pointer to slice Tech's lead to 16. About a minute and a half later, Toddrick Gotcher returned the favor and the Red Raiders were again up by 19. At the 12:37 mark Kenny Chery hit a layup to again pull the visitors to within 16, only to see Robert Turner nail a trey on Tech's next possession.
The Bears gradually ratcheted up the defensive pressure in the second half, and the refs certainly let them play, but the Red Raiders were unfazed by Baylor's tactics and only committed four second-half turnovers. Tech missed too many free throws in crunch time, but played well enough in every other phase of the game to render the misses otiose.
This was a monumental win for these Red Raiders, not the least because it came before 9,515 fans. If Tech can steadily build on this accomplishment, those fans will return and bring their buddies. And a United Spirit Arena packed with 15,000 crazies is a force with which to be reckoned.
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