The greatest thing about sports is its unpredictability. Even the greatest minds analyzing the games—including those in Las Vegas—cannot foresee bizarro upsets. That is why they’re upsets. And the classic case in point is Texas Tech’s astounding 78-73 takedown of Big 12 title contender Iowa State.
The Red Raiders (11-9, 1-6), losers of six straight, and eight of their last nine heading into today’s game, hardly seemed likely to break their slump against a No. 9 Iowa State (14-4, 4-2) team that previously handled Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Kansas and Kansas State, Big 12 foes that dispatched Tech with relative ease.
But the Red Raiders, buoyed by a boisterous home crowed, and spurred by remarkably hot shooting in the first half, jumped on ISU early, and never surrendered their lead. That is not to say that the game didn’t become intense and dicey down the stretch. It most assuredly did.
Tech, playing with a shorter bench than usual because of Norense Odiase’s flu and Justin Gray’s pending knee surgery, began the game in ugly fashion, and it looked like the same ol’ Red Raiders would again take it on the chin.
Randy Onswuasor turned the ball over twice in Tech’s first three possessions, and Iowa State scored three straight buckets on a Bryce Dejean-Jones layup, a Naz Long trifecta, and a Dejean-Jones dunk to go up 7-3 with 17:31 remaining in the first half. But the Red Raiders, curling hard off of screens, and getting open looks, quickly caught fire.
Robert Turner scored Tech’s first six points on 3-pointers, Keenan Evans hit a layup, and Toddrick Gotcher cut plumb center on three straight 3-balls to give the Red Raiders a 17-8 lead with 13:22 remaining.
The Tech onslaught was, however, only just beginning. After scoring contributions from Isaiah Manderson, Devaugntah Williams, Aaron Ross, and Evans, punctuated by another Turner trifecta, the Red Raiders held a commanding 29-10 lead at the 7:38 mark. It would be Tech’s biggest lead of the game, and would prove too much for the Cyclones to overcome. Just barely.
ISU began chipping away at the deficit, and after Matt Thomas ended the half with two 3-pointers in a row, the Red Raiders 19-point cushion had melted to only 11, and everybody in the house knew that the second half would be a donnybrook.
But Tech didn’t buckle for most of the second half. Williams, who scored 20 points in the second stanza, opened it with a 3-ball and served notice that the Red Raiders were not about to go down easily.
A Dustin Hogue jumper at the 17:11 mark made the score 39-33 Tech, but the Red Raiders responded with a barrage of their own to knock the Cyclones back. Tech went on an 11-3 run, finalized by a massive Zach Smith follow jam, and a couple of free throws to push the Red Raider lead back to 14 with 13:13 remaining.
The Cyclone run—and you knew it was coming—transpired right after Williams drained a 3-ball at the 8:04 mark to give Tech a 60-45 advantage. Iowa State went into a full-court press and the Red Raiders responded by committing two straight turnovers. And ISU proceeded to outscore Tech 28-18 over the final 7:28.
Still, the Red Raiders did just enough down the stretch to foil the Cyclone comeback. Most important, they hit pressure-packed free throws. As ISU made its run, Tech knocked down 17 of 21 freebies (81 percent), and when Williams canned the final two with five second left, Iowa State’s fate was sealed.
Tech will try to make it two upsets in a row at 6:30 on Wednesday night against Oklahoma in Norman.
Shazam! Red Raiders Drop Cyclones
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