*Those who didn’t see the Texas Tech-Rice basketball game, and who may not know much about the Owls other than that it’s been a long time since they’ve been to the NCAA tournament (1970 was their last visit), may be a bit concerned that the Red Raiders barely eked out an 85-84 victory over the visitors in Lubbock. Truthfully, though, there’s nothing to be remotely ashamed of in this win.
The Owls are better than advertised, and some folks, including Chris Beard, regarded them highly coming in. Rice is a talented, cohesive and well-coached team, and they hit Texas Tech with their best shot. Guard Marcus Evans and forward Egor Koulechov will make good money playing basketball for a long time to come.
Bear in mind, too, that the Red Raiders nipped Rice without the services of leading scorer Aaron Ross, along with their best post player, Norense Odiase.
Now this win wasn’t as impressive as Baylor beating Xavier or West Virginia throttling Virginia. Not even close. But Tech survived and got a W over a team that will probably win the Conference USA title, and could very well score an upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament. When all is said and done, nobody will be scoffing at a one-point win over the Owls.
*Anthony Livingston’s 33-point, seven-rebound, two-assist performance, punctuated by three ice-water free throws with 2.4 seconds to play, which handed the Red Raiders a heart-stopping comeback victory, was the best game I’ve seen a Tech hoopster play in quite some time. I’d be interested to hear reader nominations for the most recent better game by a Red Raider.
*Chris Beard prides himself on his teams’ mental toughness. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that he places a greater premium on this quality than any other when in comes to the game of basketball. Well Tech’s win over Rice was a classic example of mental toughness. Of hanging tough when a team is unconscious, literally raining in 3-pointers from all over the court. This game was truly a slugfest where the two teams kept landing haymakers and you wondered which one would get staggered first, and whether it could recover afterwards.
Well the Red Raiders rocked the Owls by accumulating a nine-point lead with 5:39 to play in the first half, and Rice wobbled Tech by forging a five-point advantage with only 34 seconds to play. But improbably, the Red Raiders came off of the ropes and landed a lethal one-two combination in the waning seconds to get the knockout.
That was a gritty win. Tech never threw in the towel and prevailed in the end. And the fact that they did this was no accident. It was a result of what Beard preaches.
*Devon Thomas, who I like to call the Little General, is the guy who holds this Tech team together. In the postgame presser coach Beard offered that Thomas is the team’s true vocal leader, and its “heart and soul.” And it was Thomas who, even when the situation looked most dire, kept insisting to his teammates that Tech was going to win the game. Thomas didn’t put up a big stat line, but the Red Raiders couldn’t have won this game without his leadership.