Texas Tech basketball: Red Raiders fight off pesky Kansas State in Lubbock

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Guard Kevin McCullar #15 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders high fives forward TJ Holyfield #22 (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

Wednesday in Lubbock, the Texas Tech basketball team held off a challenge from last place Kansas State to come away with a 69-62 win.

Sometimes you earn the breaks that go your way and sometimes you are just lucky that your opponent makes a boneheaded play.  That later of those two scenarios is what helped the Texas Tech basketball team turn the tide in Wednesday night’s 69-62 home win against Kansas State.

After watching all but two points of what was at one time a double-digit first-half lead slip away, a crowd of nearly 15,000 fans inside United Supermarkets Arena sat on its hands nervously watching the Red Raiders make mistake after mistake to allow Kansas State back into the game.  With both the Red Raiders and their home crowd appearing to be in somewhat of a stunned stupor over the fact that a team with a 2-10 record in Big 12 play was within a possession of taking the lead, the game’s defining play unfolded and Tech had better be glad for its dumb luck.

Down just 44-42 with a tick under ten minutes to play in the game, Kansas State guard Cartier Diarra came up with a loose ball that began its life in this world as a lazy pass from Jahmi’us Ramsey to Davide Moretti, who was not looking for the ball.  Picking the ball up and streaking uncontested to the rim, Diarra looked certain to tie the game and cast a serious pall over the partisan Red Raider crowd.

But apparently Diarra thought that he would audition for next year’s NBA Slamdunk Contest by attempting to throw down a windmill flush.  The problem is that he was rejected by the rim allowing Kyler Edwards to collect the ball and find a wide-open Moretti on the other end of the floor for a 3-pointer at the top of the key.

Already awakened by Diarra’s flub, the once passive Lubbock crowd erupted when Moretti’s shot was true prompting KSU head coach Bruce Weber to call a timeout.  Diarra would not play for the remainder of the game and Texas Tech would not look back after that game-changing five-point swing.

That exchange sparked an 8-2 Red Raider run to push the lead to 52-44 and essentially give Chris Beard’s team enough breathing room to negotiate the final six-plus minutes of the game without any further problem.  It was an eventful night for Diarra who also had a heated shouting match with Weber during a timeout which led to Weber slamming a stool in frustration.

As for Tech, Moretti led the way with 18 points on 5-12 shooting (4-10 from 3-point range) while Jahmi’us Ramsey (17 points) and Kyler Edwards (14 points) helped to keep the Red Raiders from dropping a second-straight game to a team in the bottom two of the Big 12 standings.  After falling at Oklahoma State 73-70 in Stillwater on Saturday, Tech could ill afford to drop this game against a KSU team that came into the night just 9-16 overall on the year.

But after jumping out to a 7-2 lead to open the game and a 28-17 edge near the end of the first half, Tech led just 30-27 at the break.  And in the first ten minutes of the second half, KSU fought Tech tooth and nail as the Red Raiders struggled with turnovers, rebounding, and 3-point shooting all at one time allowing the Wildcats to start to believe in their chances of pulling off the upset.

That hope dissipated with one failed dunk attempt from Diarra who finished the game with ten points on 3-8 shooting.  Chris Beard is known for preaching the importance of making championship plays and that’s the opposite of what Diarra did when he had an opportunity to tie Wednesday’s game with a simple dunk. Perhaps that’s a clue as to why the culture within Beard’s program has allowed his team to remain nationally relevant this year while the program that Tech shared the Big 12 regular-season title with last year, Kansas State, seems to be spiraling out of control.

So let’s dig deeper into what we saw in this game because there were some other important takeaways other than Diarra’s boneheaded moments.  Most important was the emergence of a new starter for the Red Raiders.

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