A basketball team's mentality can be every bit as important as its physicality. In their 80-71 win over Texas Southern, the Texas Tech Red Raiders demonstrated a high level of mental toughness. And they had to, because the visiting Tigers never capitulated and took the fight to Tech from opening whistle to final buzzer.
Behind a frenzied defensive effort that held TSU to 28 percent shooting, the Red Raiders took a 31-26 lead into the halftime break. But the Tigers, who got 29 points from forward Jose Rodriguez, had Tech on the defensive for the first 10 minutes of the second half.
With 15:18 to play, TSU erased Tech's lead completely on a pair of Rodriguez free throws to knot the count at 39. Then, with 13:50 remaining, the Tigers took a 41-40 lead on an Aaric Murray layup.
The teams traded the lead until the 12:47 mark when Dusty Hannahs, who poured in 17 second-half points, drained a three ball. Moments later he followed the three-pointer with another jumper to give the Red Raiders a four-point lead. Despite multiple hard charges by the Tigers, including one which tied the score at 54 with 7:24 remaining, Tech never again trailed.
Clutch free throw shooting down the stretch by Hannahs, and generally stellar play by Jaye Crockett, sealed the deal for the Red Raiders.
A lot of good came out of this one for Tubby Smith's boys. Hannahs, who came off the bench for the first time this season, contributed 19 points, three rebounds, and was six of six from the free throw line.
Point guard Robert Turner was the glue that held the team together throughout. He's the one player on the roster who can consistently break down opposing defenses off the dribble, and he did that all night to the Tigers. And once again, he shot over 50 percent from the field, and as an added bonus, didn't commit a turnover.
Kader Tapsoba, who played 15 big minutes, swatted away four shots. As a team, the Red Raiders snuffed 12 shots, which ties a school record.
Randy Onwuasor, who backed up Turner, also logged 15 minutes, and was easily Tech's most effective defender against the six-foot-seven Rodriguez. If he can consistently defend players of that size, he will be a nice asset when Tubby Smith decides to go with three guards, as he did for most of the second half against TSU.
And then there was Jaye Crockett, who just went about his usual business, pouring in 21 points and pulling down seven rebounds. At this point, that's pretty much what you expect from Crockett, which is a tremendous credit to the senior from Clovis, New Mexico.
Tech will next be in action on Thursday night at the United Spirit Arena when the South Dakota State Jackrabbits pay a visit to Lubbock.
Red Raiders Dig Out a Hard-Nosed Win
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