Texas Tech Basketball Beats Texas 73-69 In Big 12 Tournament

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 08: Keenan Evans
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 08: Keenan Evans /

The Texas Tech basketball team knocked off Texas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday setting up a showdown with West Virginia.

For the first time in five years, the Texas Tech basketball team has won a game in the Big 12 Tournament.  The Red Raiders knocked off Texas 73-69 in a game the Red Raiders never trailed, Thursday night in Kansas City.  Now, Texas Tech will face West Virginia in the school’s first appearance in the semifinals of the conference tournament since 2005.

The win brought head coach Chris Beard and his team full-circle from a season ago when a loss to Texas in the Big 12 Tournament opening round ended the Red Raiders’ season.

"“It was one year ago we sat at this table and we said we were going to do everything we could the next 364 days to put ourselves in a better position and we’ve done that.” Beard said after the game."

Senior guard Keenan Evans was again the catalyst for the Red Raiders.  The Wooden Award finalist led Tech with 25 points, including 18 in the second half.

More from Wreck'Em Red

However, it was a second half that did not follow the recent script for the Red Raiders.  It each of Texas Tech’s three previous games, Evans and his teammates found themselves facing huge deficits in the first half making the second halves of those games uphill battles.

But against Texas, the Red Raiders jumped out to a 22-8 lead in the game’s first ten minutes.  However, the rest of the night would be spent holding off a game Texas team possibly playing for its NCAA Tournament life.

Sophomore guard Jacob Young had a career-high 29 points (including six threes) to bring Texas to within one point at 55-54 with 7:56 left to play.  Fortunately for Texas Tech, Evans’ steady second-half scoring helped fend of the feisty Horns.

But it was a key defensive play by freshman Zhaire Smith that swung the momentum to the Red Raiders for good.  With 4:10 to play and Texas Tech holding on to a 60-57 lead, Smith chased down Texas’ Kerwin Roach in the open court and blocked his layup attempt at the rim.

Texas Tech would grab the rebound and score on the ensuing possession to stem the Texas tide.  Smith finished with eight points on the night and all six of his points in the second half came when Texas was within five points or fewer.  However, it was the unreal block of Roach that provided a lift to his team and seemed to single-handedly break the Longhorns’ will.

The win moves the Red Raiders one step closer to a Big 12 Tournament title, which would be the first in program history.  But to Beard, it seems to be just another step in the process of building his program.

"“When you build a program, there’s going to be a lot of firsts.” The second-year Texas Tech head coach said.  “You’ve got to do some things that haven’t been done before…But right now, we’re just trying to stay in the moment.”"

While a Big 12 Title is certainly the main goal for Texas Tech this week, Thursday’s win strengthened the team’s NCAA Tournament resume.  Already a virtual guarantee to be part of next week’s big dance, Texas Tech is still trying to improve its overall seeding with a strong performance in Kansas City.

Many prognosticators have Texas Tech as a 4 seed in the tournament but the belief is that Tech could move up to a 3 seed if it wins the Big 12 Tournament.  What’s most important to Texas Tech though is where the team will be sent for the first weekend of the tournament.

Texas Tech is one of a host of teams in the central time zone hoping to be put in the Dallas regional next week.  As home to the nation’s second-largest Texas Tech alumni base, Dallas is the real goal for Texas Tech, regardless of seeding or matchup.

Next: Beard Contract Extension Has Few Risks

Should that come to fruition, the American Airlines Center would become Lubbock east but the only way for Texas Tech to assure that dream becomes a reality is for the Red Raiders to continue to blaze a new trail in a season that has seen this team already do so on numerous occasions.