Red Raiders Fed Off the Crowd

The largest crowd of the season spurred Tech onto an upset win over Baylor on Wednesday. Both Baylor coach Scott Drew and Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith, as well as all the players acknowledged the effect the crowd at United Spirit Arena had on the game.

"We felt they were hungrier than us."

Those were the first words from Baylor guard Kenny Chery after an 82-72 Texas Tech victory over the Bears on Wednesday.

From the opening tip, the atmosphere was electric. 9,516 fans filled the United Spirit Arena – which may not be enough for capacity (15,000), but surely felt like it. Genius marketing from Texas Tech and coach Tubby Smith saw over 3,300 students make their presence known at the home court of the Red Raiders.

Texas Tech came with a fearless – no pun intended – mentality, unaffected by the daunting presence which Baylor and a team of its stature would naturally bring. Of all the players which intrigued on Wednesday, Dejan Kravic stood up and played quite possibly his best game in Red Raider colors; he scored 14 points, snared nine rebounds (narrowly missing a double-double), and dished out six assists.

"It's a part of my game I've wanted to show," he said after the game.

Baylor head coach Scott Drew was quite complimentary of the fan presence at the game.

"That was probably the best crowd I've seen here in years," he said.

Tubby Smith seconded that. "I'd like to thank the student body and the fans for coming out," the first-year Red Raider coach said. "You can feel the energy in the [United] Spirit Arena…it's a great name for an arena."

And quite appropriate, considering the intensity of the crowd and the livening-up of what could be considered one of the worst home court environments in the Big 12.

What Smith did – on the first day of the spring semester, no less – to market the game to the greater student population was nothing short of amazing for a program which had fallen on the hardest of times in the past few seasons.

Asked about if he would mass-feed students in the Student Union Building like he did on Wednesday to drum up interest in the program, Smith said, "Oh yeah…I might be broke by the time the year's over. If that's what it takes, we'll be feeding a lot of students!"

The players were left impressed by the fan support as well. Jaye Crockett mentioned the "sixth man" advantage which Tech fans had given them.

"This is Number One for me," Crockett said, regarding the win over Baylor. "I got to rush the court back in my freshman year…but I was in a sweatsuit."

He had only one gripe about the postgame celebration: "It was too hot!"

Texas Tech can take this win in style. Fans can now take to the arena for basketball games.

Progress can be made from here.

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