With the 2015-16 Texas Tech basketball season now complete, hindsight allows for an analysis of the season’s defining moments. Today we look at defining moment No. 2, Texas Tech’s victory over Texas in the Big 12 opener.
Whether it is in checkers, tick-tac-toe, or bullfrog relay races, anytime one loses 14 of 15 contests to the same opponent doubt is sure to set in. That was the case when Texas Tech hosted the Texas Longhorns on January 2, 2016 for the Big 12 opener.
Though the Red Raiders had built fantastic momentum during its 10-game winning streak, there was certainly doubt amongst the fan base and likely the team (though none on the squad would ever admit it) about whether or not the Texas Tech basketball team was ready to compete with the Longhorns. Texas featured high-scoring point guard Isaiah Taylor who many believe is an NBA prospect in this summer’s draft and came to town with the swagger of a team knowing it had beaten its opponent like a drum in 14 of the last 15 contests between the two schools.
However, Texas Tech caught a bit of a break (no pun intended) by being the first team the Longhorns faced after their starting center Cameron Ridley broke his left foot in the previous game. Still, the task facing Texas Tech was daunting.
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Fortunately, the two Texas Tech seniors on the squad stepped up to push the Red Raiders past the Horns 82-74. Guard Devaugntah Williams led Texas Tech with 23 points and forward Toddrick Gotcher added 18 of his own to lead the charge.
Throughout the game, Texas Tech dominated play in the paint. For instance, Texas did not grab an offensive rebound until 14:52 into the first half.
Another sign that Texas Tech controlled the paint could be seen at the free throw line. For the game, Tubby Smith’s Red Raiders hit 27-30 (90%) free throws while Shaka Smart’s Longhorns went just 15-22 (68.2%) at the line.
This victory was a defining moment for the Texas Tech basketball team for a number of reasons.
First of all, the team proved to itself that it could compete with the teams expected to be in the top half of the Big 12. Prior to the season, Texas Tech was picked to finish last in the conference by the league’s coaches so the 11-1 Red Raiders had something to prove despite their non-conference success.
"”We’ve been the hunted instead of the hunted,” Gotcher said. ”It’s starting to change around.”"
While he may have mangled the cliché he was attempting to use, Gotcher’s sentiments were clear. The 2015-16 Texas Tech basketball team was beginning to see itself differently than did the teams in the program’s recent past.
Secondly, Texas Tech got off to a winning start in Big 12 play for the first time since 2012-13, the year prior to Tubby Smith’s arrival in Lubbock. With a brutal start to Big 12 league play that included trips to Iowa State and Kansas State mixed with home games against Kansas and Baylor, getting a taste of Big 12 success kept the team’s moral up in the early conference gauntlet.
Finally, Texas Tech’s win over Texas reinvigorated the passion for Texas Tech basketball of Red Raider fans. Though the game was played while the students were on winter break, the sight of burnt orange in Lubbock always brings Texas Tech fans out in droves and those that attended were treated to the thrill of putting one over on big brother.
As the season progressed, the United Supermarkets Arena was transformed from an empty tomb to a raucous destination no team in the conference looked forward to visiting. The fans’ return began in earnest when the team defeated the hated Longhorns proving to the people of Lubbock that Texas Tech basketball was once again worth their attention.
The crowd would play huge roles in upsets later in the year. Finally a home court advantage had returned to the U.S.A.
Texas Tech fans relish any victory over Texas regardless of the type of competition. Thus, when the Texas Tech basketball team defeated the Horns to open Big 12 play, it was the one of the first steps towards returning life to the once dormant program in 2015-16.