Texas Tech basketball gets another shot at first-ever win over No. 1 team

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 04: Davide Moretti #25 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders shoots a lay up in the first half against Charlie Moore #11 of the DePaul Blue Demons at Wintrust Arena on December 04, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 04: Davide Moretti #25 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders shoots a lay up in the first half against Charlie Moore #11 of the DePaul Blue Demons at Wintrust Arena on December 04, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Tuesday night in New York City, the Texas Tech basketball program will look to earn its first-ever win over a No. 1 ranked team when the Red Raiders meet Louisville.

It’s hard to imagine any program having a sparkling record against No. 1 ranked teams.  But the Texas Tech basketball program is still searching for its first-ever win over a team on top of the polls.

When the Red Raiders square off with No. 1 Louisville on Tuesday night, it will be the seventh crack at the nation’s top team for the program.  But it will be the first time Tech has faced the biggest bully on the block since January of 2016 meaning this is Beard’s first crack a landing a win over a top-ranked team while at Tech.

In the previous six games against No. 1 teams, the Red Raiders have failed to keep all but two games closer than 10 points.  Their average margin of defeat has been 16.6 points.  That’s not a great confidence-builder for fans in scarlet and black.

The first time the Red Raiders got a shot at the No. 1 team didn’t come until 1997 when Kansas came to Lubbock.  Despite having such greats as Cory Carr, Tony Battie, Stan Bonewitz, and Rayford Young on the roster, Tech fell 86-77 in the now-demolished Municipal Coliseum.

In 2002, Bob Knight got his first shot at a No. 1 team while at Tech when his Red Raiders met the Jayhawks in the Big 12 Tournament.  In one of the worst losses of Knight’s career, KU led by as many as 48 points on the way to a 90-50 win that saw Tech hit only 19-70 shots as both Andre Emmett and Andy Ellis were held scoreless.

Two years later, Tech put a scare into No. 1 ranked St. Joseph’s in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  In the 70-65 loss, Emmett has 18 points in his final game as a Red Raider but Jameer Nelson’s 24 points and some timely shooting from deep by Delonte West (15 points) kept the Owls alive as they would eventually fall to Oklahoma State in the Elite Eight.

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It would be six years before Tech got another shot at No. 1 and again it was KU at the Big 12 Tournament, this time in March of 2010.  The Red Raiders fell 80-68 but in the second half, the game was just a three-point contest with under ten minutes to go.

In 2016, Tech actually went toe-to-toe with the No. 1 team twice.  The first being (no surprise) Kansas, which scored a 69-59 win in Lubbock.

In a game in which sophomore Norense Odiase led the team with 14 points, Tech was able to cut a 10-point deficit to just 58-54 with less than five minutes to play.  But the Jayhawks went on an immediate run to seize control for good.

Later that year, Tubby Smith’s team was obliterated by No. 1 Oklahoma in Norman.  In the 91-67 loss, the Red Raiders shot just 32.4% from the floor which wasn’t good enough to keep pace with the Sooners, who got 30 points from Buddy Hield.

That was the last time the Red Raiders got a crack at the top team in the polls.  Tuesday night that changes and Chris beard knows what a challenge it will be.

"“They have all the ingredients of a championship team,” Beard said of Louisville.  “Definitely, one of the best teams in college basketball.  They return most of their players from last year, I think six of the top seven scorers so they have that experience factor.”"

Of course, Beard is more than leery of the experience disadvantage his team will have in this game as are the rest of the interested observers.  While continue their indoctrination into the ways of Beard against the most formidable of opponents is less than ideal for the six Red Raider freshmen (if Jahmi’us Ramsey is able to play) and two grad transfers, this is another opportunity to prepare for the gauntlet that is Big 12 play.

The reality is that even if this young team is able to go into battle with Ramsey back on the court, the Red Raiders are going to be prohibitive underdogs.  But as we saw in Wednesday’s loss to DePaul when freshman Terrence Shannon Jr. scored a career-high 24 points, every tough matchup is an important opportunity for Beard’s team to grow both individually and as a team.

But don’t just assume that this game is nothing but a foregone conclusion.  Already this year, we have seen the No. 1 team go down four times.  That includes home losses by Kentucky and Duke to unranked mid-major teams.

If Evansville can win a game at Rupp Arena and Stephen F. Austin can come out of Cameron Indoor victorious, then Tech can take down the No. 1 team in the nation at Madison Square Garden, even if that’s something this program has never done before.  After all, Beard has made a habit of breaking new ground in Lubbock.