Vindication: Texas Tech beats Tubby Smith’s former team in Puerto Rico


If Tubby Smith was Minnesota’s trash, he’s quickly become Texas Tech’s treasure. Smith, the future hall-of-fame head coach guided his Red Raider basketball team past the school that fired him in 2013, 81-68 in the final of three games for each team in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Afterwards, Smith acknowledged that the game against the school that fired him following a six year run, which included 4 NCAA tournament bids and two NIT appearances, was a bit more important than the normal non-conference game.

"“It’s sort of like … when I played against my sons in the backyard or playing against relatives or close friends,” Smith said. “That’s tough to do because you respect them, you care about them, you want them to do well. But you still want to win.” Link"

After losing the opening game of the tournament to No. 16 Utah, Texas Tech returns to Lubbock with wins over Mississippi State and the Golden Gophers which are coached by Richard Petino, the son of a man to whom Tubby Smith will forever be linked.

The patriarch of the Petino family, Rick Petino (currently the head coach at Louisville) hired Tubby Smith to be an assistant when the elder Petino led the Kentucky Wildcats in 1989. Smith left in 1991 to be the head coach at Tulsa but would return to Kentucky as head coach in 1997 when Rick Petino left college basketball to coach in the NBA.

In his first season in Lexington, Smith would win the 1997-98 National Title. He would spend ten seasons at Kentucky before leaving to take over at Minnesota.

Smith’s time at Minnesota came to a somewhat unexpected end when, despite taking the school to postseason play every year of his tenure, he was fired in 2013 though the Gophers had advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing to Florida that season.

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And, in yet another twist to link Smith and the Petino family, the junior Petino, Richard was hired to replace Smith. Sunday in Puerto Rico was the first time Smith had faced his former school and despite trying to keep the game in perspective, everyone on the Texas Tech bench knew that the game carried a bit more weight than others.

After the match-up between Texas Tech and Minnesota was set, senior Red Raider guard and team leader Toddrick Gotcher tweeted his feelings about what the game meant.

Meanwhile, Texas Tech basketball play-by-play broadcaster Brian Hanni reported via twitter that the Texas Tech fans in attendance were playfully taunting the Golden Gopher faithful following the game.

As for the game itself, Texas Tech took a double-figure lead early with aggressive inside play from forward Zach Smith and the Texas Tech guards that slashed to the rim. Though Minnesota would tie the game on a couple of occasions, the Red Raiders never surrendered the lead going wire-to-wire for their third victory of the young season.

Easily the best athlete on the court in all three of Texas Tech’s games in Puerto Rico, Smith finished with a career-high 15 points while collecting 6 rebounds. And while Smith’s presence set an aggressive tone in the game’s first half, the Texas Tech guards did the heavy lifting after half time to bring the victory home.

Senior guard Devaughntah Williams led all scorers with 21 points and sophomore point guard Keenan Evans added 12 points to spearhead a balanced Texas Tech attack. Five Red Raiders scored in double figures (including 4 of 5 starters) and 8 added at least two points to help their head coach earn career win No. 541.

In the second half, Smith stuck with a six-man rotation featuring his five starters (Gotcher, Williams, Smith, Evans, center Norense Odiase) and reserve forward Aaron Ross (who added 10 points) treating the game more like a crucial conference battle than the fifth-place game of a meaningless November tournament.

But after the contest, Smith didn’t admit to coaching any differently against his former employer than he would any other team.

"“You coach this game, you’d better not allow yourself to get too high or too low,” Smith said. “That can’t enter into the equation because if you do, your decisions are not going to be what they should be.” Link"

Classy as always, Tubby Smith did not let his mouth say anything controversial nor did he gloat. He’s too good for that.

Besides, the smile on his face and the exuberance of his players as they left the court told everyone all they needed to know about what this game meant for Texas Tech and its head coach.

Next: V.F. Castro weighs in on Texas Tech and Big 12 Football

Texas Tech (3-1) next faces Hawaii at the United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock on Saturday, November 28th at 3 pm CST.