March Maddening: Texas Tech Stuns Texas, 92-81

This was good for Texas, right? A 92-81 setback to Texas Tech Friday in the second round of the Big 12 Basketball Tournament in Dallas? Yeah, in a macabre sort of way. Sort of like a barium enema can do the body wonders.

At the very least, it shows you can’t live off those sexy memories of sweeping Oklahoma. It shows that you can’t be any less focused against a lower seed, not even when you’re playing in front of what was basically a Texas home crowd on a neutral court at the American Airlines Center. Not this time of year.

With the Red Raiders draining treys (10-of-14) quicker than head coach Bobby Knight can give away his salary, the seventh-seeded Raiders jumped to a 20 point-lead and fought off a furious Texas rally in the final minutes.

"I thought (Tech) played as good a basketball game offensively that’s been played against us in a long time," head coach Rick Barnes said. "They deserved to win."

The loss likely dropped third-ranked Texas (22-6) to a No. 2 seed when NCAA brackets are announced Sunday. At 18-11, Tech players only hope their resume is now attractive enough for an at-large bid to the Big Dance. The Raiders are now the lowest seed to win multiple games in the seven-year history of the conference tournament. For Texas, the loss marks just the second time in Big 12 history that it did not advance to the semifinals and its first loss to Texas Tech in 14 outings.

"We tried to come out to set tempo," sophomore G T. J. Ford said, "but they came out and established it before we did. They set the tone during five minutes of game."

Indeed, the Sand Aggies uncharacteristically hit five treys in the first 6:50 of the game, jumping to a 25-11 lead and did not turn the ball over until the 4:21 mark of the first half.

"We put ourselves into a deep hole; real deep," Ford said. "They were a real determined team. They were more determined than we were today. The next game we play, we have to come out and set the tone we want from the beginning to the end."

Sophomore G Nathan Doudney inflicted most of the damage, draining a ridiculous 7-of-9 from beyond the arch. His dour head coach, of course, has never been one to gush over an individual performance.

"Doudney was a disappointment all year," Knight said, adding that the sophomore’s unexpected start would not have resulted from a team vote. It was Knight’s decision after Doudney hit four treys against Baylor Thursday.

"Doudney is not the most gifted defensive player in world and that’s what we had to have tonight," Knight remarked, "but he did a pretty decent job."

Decent? Doudney surpassed his career high for points by halftime. His seven three-pointers were the most scored by a Tech player all season and he finished with career best 25 points.

"The kid can play if he makes up his mind that basketball is really important and that there is a price to pay to be really good," Knight added.

Doudney was one of several Red Raiders to turn in career nights. Senior G Andre Emmett, the Big 12 scoring leader, added a career high 11 rebounds to compliment his game-high 30 points (12-of-21 FG, 6-of-7 FT). Senior F Kasib Powell turned in a triple double (12 points, 10 assists, a career high 12 rebounds).

"To me, the player of the game was Powell," Barnes said. "He could stick the ball when he wanted to stick it. We even put T.J. on him. Those 10 assists were huge."

Tech outrebounded Texas, 42-39, marking only the fifth time this season the Horns lost the battle of the boards. Paced by their torrid long-range shooting (71.4 percent), the Raiders were 31-of-63 (49.2 percent) from the field while Texas was 30-of-70 (42.9 percent). Tech outscored Texas 11-2 on second-chance points in the first half.

"The bottom line is that they beat us in every way you can beat a team," Barnes conceded.

Senior F Deginald Erskin’s lay-up narrowed the first-half gap to 36-21, bringing the chronically late-arriving Longhorn fans to life. But Doudney answered with his fifth trey of the evening to spot Tech a 39-21 advantage. The Horns would battle back, starting with a G Royal Ivey trey and layup. Sophomore F Sydmill Harris’ lay-up narrowed the deficit, 41-28. (Here, you’re thinking that if Texas can get it to single-digits by intermission, this one might be salvageable).

Senior G Will Chavistrey, followed by a pair of Emmett free throws, gave Tech its largest lead, 48-28, with 2:19 left on the game clock.

Texas entered the locker room staring at a 50-35 halftime deficit, its largest of the season. Texas’ five starters were 8-of-23 from the field in the first half, while centers James Thomas and Jason Klotz combined for zero (zero!) points for the game.

"At halftime, I told the guys to find out what we’re made of and to get back in it," Barnes said. "We did but (Tech) made the plays and deserved to win it."

Thomas was whistled for his third personal with but one minute expired in the second half and saw only 16 minutes of action. But Texas hung tough, as junior F Brain Boddicker’s put-back of a Ford miss started a 10-4 run that was rudely interrupted by yet another Doudney trey. Junior G Brandon Mouton’s trey (14 points, 6-of-17) rattled in to trim the deficit, 53-37, but then just as quickly picked up his third foul with little more than 17 minutes remaining.

There came a critical moment in Texas’ comeback win against Oklahoma Saturday that Ford basically told his team he was going to take over. And he did. And you thought it was déjà vu all over again when Ford motored through heavy traffic for a patented layup to make it, 54-39. He followed with a steal beneath the Raider bucket, dished off to Harris who drained a three, and suddenly the Horns were back from the dead, trailing 54-42.

"Against OU, we were able to come back, and that’s hard to do," Ford said. "With the run we made last week, a lot of people expected us to make run and come up on top."

But another Doudney trey and a pair of Andre Emmett free throws pushed the Tech lead to 59-42.

Trailing 63-46, Ivey’s bucket was waived off after he was tagged with his fourth personal with 13:46 left. Tech pushed the lead back to 19 and threatened to blow this one open, but the Horns would respond with a 9-0 run, starting with a pair of Erskin FTs and a Ford layup. Doudney finally missed a trey as Harris swished his from beyond the arch. Texas was now within, 67-57, with 10:26 remaining.

Mouton’s trey finally brought Texas to within single-digits at 75-66 with just under five minutes remaining. A Boddicker bucket further trimmed the deficit, 80-74, with 3:37 left. After that, Texas connected on just two of their final seven FG attempts while Tech went 8-of-9 from the charity stripe in the final 3:33.

This one would have been uglier without Ford’s 23 points (8-of-19) and eight assists.

"We proved once again that we can’t guard T.J. Ford," Knight said. "I’ve seen a lot of basketball, and I’m not sure that I’ve seen anyone as quick with the ball as he is and who, when he’s in trouble, he can do more with it. At one point, I started to stand up and clap (for Ford) but (my son) Pat grabbed me and said ‘Godammit, dad. Sit down.’ But Ford kept Texas in it."

The loss marked Barnes first setback against the Lubbock school in 11 outings. The loss was not atypical of a weekend that has already seen conference champs Arizona and Marquette fall to lower seeds.

"This happens all over the country," Barnes remarked. "I’m not sure you can call it an upset. That’s why you have the tournament."

I say, you can have the damn tournament. To hell with conference tournaments that diminish the regular season and benefit only middle-of-the pack teams (like Tech) desperate to attain in one weekend what other programs (like Texas and Kansas) have forged all year. To hell with a pointless play-off that exist primarily to make money and doesn’t provide free parking to sports writers ("We have limited parking for media, Mr. Frisbie," intoned the attendant in charge of monitoring acres of empty spaces).

All bitterness aside, the Big 12 deserves seven selections in the Big Dance. Both Texas Tech (wins over Texas, Oklahoma State and, technically, OU) and Colorado (wins over Kansas and Texas) have shown they should be counted among the nation’s 64 best squads. However, the only thing assured a scrappy Red Raider team was a post-game meal back at their hotel, according to their irascible coach.

"They played themselves into a bid that I’m feeding them tonight," Knight poor-mouthed.

Texas, meanwhile, with two days of unanticipated rest and hopefully some focus slapped back into them, should wind up a No. 2 seed in the South Regional.

"I think it (loss) has to sharpen our focus," Barnes said. "I will be surprised if it doesn’t. We have a sharp group of guys."

At least Dallas Cowboy fans can take heart: new head coach Bill Parcels was a visitor in the Red Raider locker room prior to tip-off (presumably issuing words of inspiration), according to an American Airlines Center official. As for me and my Burnt Orange house, it’s just another reason to cheer for the Texans.

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