Saturday, the Texas Tech basketball team came back from a 16-point deficit to win in Austin for the second-straight year.
When trying to get a victory in a building where you’ve won just once in the last 23 years, falling into a 16-point first-half hole is never wise. Bust despite trailing 27-11 late in the first 20 minutes of Saturday’s game in Austin, the Texas Tech basketball team battled all the way back for a 62-57 win over the Longhorns to move to 15-8 on the year and 6-4 in Big 12 play.
Tech now sits in a tie with West Virginia for third place in the Big 12 standings as the Mountaineers were upset by Oklahoma 69-59 in Norman in a game that ended as the Red Raiders and Longhorns were tipping off. But for virtually the entire first half, it looked as if the Red Raiders were going to be unable to capitalize on the Mountaineers’ misfortune.
Turning the ball over 11 times while making only nine shots from the floor in the first 20 minutes, Tech went to the break down 31-19. But it wasn’t just the scoreboard that was concerning as Chris Beard’s team looked tentative and a step slow in what could be argued was the worst half of basketball the Red Raiders have played all year (though the second half of the TCU game in Fort Worth is also a strong candidate for that dubious distinction).
“In the first half we just kept giving the ball to the opponent,” Beard told Chris Level of Learfield Sports and the Texas Tech Sports Network following the game. “Second half, we had a real objective as a team to take care of the basketball and that was good to see.”
Ending the game with only 13 turnovers, Tech stopped coughing the ball up after the intermission and that set the stage for the comeback. Scoring 43 points in the second half, Tech was able to be a plus-seven in the turnover category on the way to a 17-point advantage.
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Interestingly, it was a player who scored only two points all afternoon that proved to be his team’s hero. Senior forward T.J. Holyfield saved the day with three huge blocks in the final minute of the game as Tech nursed a one-point lead. For the day, he finished with five blocks to go along with eight rebounds and a steal in a game he dominated despite shooting just 1-4 from the field.
Jahmi’us Ramsey led the Red Raiders with 18 points while Terrence Shannon Jr. came up with 13 and Kyler Edwards added 11. Meanwhile, Texas was led by Andrew Jones, who also had 18 points but only two after the half. Matt Coleman tried to carry his team to the win with 17 points, including 10 in the second, but down the stretch, he was rejected three times in the final 31 seconds by Holyfield as he looked to give his team the lead by driving the ball to the paint.
A quick 5-0 run out of the intermission pulled Tech to within 31-24 to get the comeback started. And when Chris Clarke hit a pair of free throws to knot the game at 43, the momentum was squarely in Tech’s favor.
About four minutes later, Ramsey hit a contested 3-pointer to push the Red Raiders ahead 50-48. It was the first time Tech had been in the lead since making the first basket of the game.
On the day, the teams combined to shoot 9-35 from deep with Tech managing to make just 3-12. But unlike the Horns, who shoot the second-most 3-pointers per game in the Big 12, the Red Raiders were able to supplement their offense by getting to the free-throw line.
At one point in the second half, Texas had been called for ten fouls while Tech had been whistled for only one. That’s a fact that will certainly drive fans in burnt orange crazy as they saw their team awarded 14 fewer free throws than Tech. The Red Raiders went 17-22 at the line while Texas was 7-8, a huge difference in the game.
Of course, much of that discrepancy was due to the fact that Tech attacked the rim far more often as evidenced by the fact that the Horns shot eleven more 3-pointers on the afternoon. Four Red Raiders went to the line at least four times with Ramsey leading the way with six. Meanwhile, UT had no player attempt more than the three free throws Jones took.
Beating the No. 62 team in the NET rankings on their own court, Tech picked up another important Quadrant 1 win, the third of the season. And the way it was earned might be the type of effort that proves to be a springboard to a strong February as Tech now embarks on a stretch of six-straight games against teams that do not have winning Big 12 records.
Last year, when the Red Raiders broke a 22-game losing streak in Austin, the 68-64 win was directly followed by a 3-game losing streak. But hopefully, the program’s first winning streak in the state capitol since 1986-87 will spark this ever-evolving team of freshmen, transfers, and a couple of Final Four veterans to a run that looks similar to the one that we witnessed a year ago in February (when Tech finished the regular season with nine-straight wins) as the Red Raiders set their sights on another March to remember.