Saturday in Lubbock, the Texas Tech basketball team beat Iowa State 72-52 so let’s go inside the box score to see just how the Red Raiders managed to crush the Cyclones.
A sold-out arena filled to capacity. A halftime performance by Vanilla Ice. The return of the full student section. A 14-0 second-half run. It would be hard for Texas Tech basketball fans to ask for much more than we got Saturday in Lubbock.
In what has started to become a trademark of the program when playing in Lubbock, at times it felt more like a circus than a college basketball game. Calling what takes place these days inside United Supermarkets Arena simply a game doesn’t do justice to the home atmosphere this program has built.
“The crowd is a big part of college basketball,” head coach Chris Beard said. “Our crowd really helped us in big stretches of the game today. We are very appreciative of everyone that came out.”
In the Red Raiders 72-52 victory over the Iowa State Cyclones in front of 15,098 fans, the Red Raiders put together one of the best second-half performances we’ve seen this year. After a sluggish first half that resulted in just a 27-21 lead, Chris Beard must have said something rather profound or inspiring in the Red Raider locker room because his team took its game to a completely new stratosphere in the second 20 minutes.
Outscoring ISU 45-31, Tech shot 60% from the field and 90% from the free-throw line after the intermission. Meanwhile, Iowa State wasn’t terrible but shooting 41.7% overall and 33.3% from deep, the visitors simply couldn’t keep pace.
As I sat in my seat and watched the second-half avalanche of 3-pointers whip the home crowd into the type of frenzy that one might expect when a trophy is on the line, not in a mid-season game against a team that was 1-3 in Big 12 play, I couldn’t help but be in awe of what Red Raider basketball has become.
When I was a student during the first half of the Bob Knight era, Texas Tech basketball was a nationally relevant program. Reaching three NCAA Tournaments during my time in the student section, including one Sweet 16, Knight generated serious excitement in West Texas, but nothing like what we are experiencing in the Beard era.
Saturday though, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the realization that the U.S.A., one of the larger college basketball arenas in the nation, was not only sold out but also filled to the brim for a game against an Iowa State team that entered the afternoon just 8-8 on the year.
Even during the halcyon days of the Knight era, games against Texas or Kansas failed to bring enough fans into the building to fill up the upper-level sections on both the north and south ends of the arena. Saturday, those sections, which before the Beard era were filled only during huge concerts, were just as packed as the rest of the venue.
That’s a wonder and appreciation that I don’t want to lose because it makes what has become normal in Lubbock these days remain special to many of us who remember the days when this program struggled to draw 8,000 fans for a Big 12 game.
The first time I ever saw Tech take on Iowa State came in the first season of the U.S.A., 1999-00. I was a freshman at the time and went to the game only because I wanted to see the Cyclone’s dominant power forward Marcus Fizer and the No. 10 Cyclones. That day, my friend and I got to the arena just after tip-off and we were able to easily find seats in the student section about five rows up.
I’m glad I remember that day when the Cyclones took down the Red Raiders 87-79, not because it was a happy moment in the early years of my Red Raider fandom but because it helps me keep in proper context days such as Saturday when the biggest event in West Texas was a 20-point drubbing of a bad Iowa State team.
Gone (hopefully forever) are the days when any team, much less a top 10 squad, will come to Lubbock and find a half-empty arena waiting for them. Instead, every team from Iowa State, to Kansas, to Kentucky, to Smylie Wilson Jr. High knows that when they come to the U.S.A. to face the Red Raiders, they are entering a hornet’s nest.
That’s what stood out most from Saturday’s victory over the Cyclones. It wasn’t as much the on-court domination, most expected that to happen. It was the blood-thirst that this fan base now has for anything that the Texas Tech basketball team does.
Still, there was a game played amidst the carnival-like backdrop and it was a rather impressive one for the home team. So let’s go inside the box score to see exactly why the Red Raiders blew the doors off of the Cyclones.