Playing without one of its top offensive threats, Texas Tech still pulled off a road upset.
After leaving senior forward Mike Singletary home to treat an ailing calf muscle, the Red Raiders got consistent production over the duration of a game, something they've looked for all season, in beating Baylor 78-69.
"I'm proud of them. They've just worked and worked," said Tech coach Pat Knight. "Practice has been great. We just haven't had the carryover. The record doesn't show it, but the kids have kept playing hard. They deserve this."
Deserving it, however, does not always translate into victories.
"They've got to learn," said Knight, "even though you deserve it, you've got to take it."
Tech managed without Singletary. And also without a pair of other forwards, Jaye Crockett and D'Walyn Roberts, who fouled out with 15:02 and 10:12 remaining. Those moves prompted Knight insert Javarez Willis, yet the Red Raiders held their won with the 5-11 freshman as part of the undersized lineup.
That in itself reflects some of the heart Knight alluded to within a team that's largely been categorized as one of the biggest disappointments in the Big 12. The win bumped the Red Raiders to 12-15 overall and 4-8 in the conference. Most importantly, it provided proof that Tech can be a factor down the stretch and possibly emerge as a spoiler with games remaining against Colorado, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
— After depending on five seniors much of the season, Texas Tech is beginning to allow younger players more significant playing time. A case in point is F Jaye Crockett. The redshirt freshman logged at least 12 minutes in five straight games, including 19 minutes as he nearly managed a double-double (11 points, nine rebounds) at Missouri on Feb. 15. The learning curve can still be steep at times, however. Crockett played just nine minutes in a 78-69 win at Baylor on Feb. 19, fouling out with two points and no boards.
— Texas Tech heads into the final two weeks of conference play as one of three programs that have not attracted a sellout crowd. The others are Oklahoma and Iowa State, though capacity at United Spirit Arena (15,098) is larger than the gyms belonging to the Sooners and Cyclones.
BY THE NUMBERS: 600 — Career assists mark, which G John Roberson passed with three assists at Missouri in a Feb. 15 defeat. He became the fourth player in Big 12 history to reach that milestone.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "(The Baylor win) was good for us. We actually played well in our last two-and-a-half games, the second half of the Texas game and the games against Texas A&M and Missouri. The record doesn't show it, but the kids have just kept playing hard and we deserve this." -- Texas Tech coach Pat Knight.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
GAME PREVIEW: vs. Colorado, Feb. 23.
KEY MATCHUPS: The Red Raiders are often responsible for lighting the pilot themselves on any energy that's created in their building, especially for a mid-week matchup. Colorado could thrive if Tech doesn't defend, particularly since G Cory Higgins and G Alec Burks are long and capable of burning opponents off the dribble or with jumpers. The Buffs can be outmatched on the boards, though Tech struggles at that.
GAME PREVIEW: at Oklahoma State. Feb. 26.
KEY MATCHUPS: Depth has created problems for the Cowboys, though they are also capable of strong performances at home. F Marshall Moses must handle much of the dirty work underneath, yet is always capable of a double-double. Losing G Keiton Page along the arc is a no-no, while G Jean-Paul Olukemi is capable of driving the ball. Flow can be a problem for OSU, which has no one ranked among Big 12 leaders in assists.
FUTURES MARKET: Defensive stops have been hard to produce for Texas Tech, which ranks last in the Big 12, allowing 76.2 points and 46.1 percent shooting. Against Baylor, however, the Red Raiders effectively executed a plan to prevent the Bears' LaceDarius Dunn from gunning them down with 3-pointers. Dunn was just 1-for-6 from behind the arc. He did net 21 points, though by making him work for his points, the Red Raiders should have gained some confidence as defenders.
— Senior F Mike Singletary continues to be saddled with a sore calf, which prevented him from playing in the Baylor win. He played a combined 13 minutes in the previous two games and scored four points.
— Senior G John Roberson led Texas Tech in scoring in six of the last 10 games. He played all 40 minutes at Baylor and scored 16 points, but had seven turnovers against four assists.
— Senior G David Tairu is averaging 14.7 points over the last four games. He scored 12 points at Baylor on 5-for-10 shooting.