So much for the notion that the Texas Tech basketball team may have peaked too soon. Entering their opening game of the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday night having lost two of their previous three games, Mark Adams’ Red Raiders put together their best game of the season in Kansas City humiliating Iowa State 72-41 to move to Friday’s semifinals where they will meet Oklahoma, which upset No. 2 seed Baylor on Thursday.
The Red Raiders were never in danger against the Cyclones. Jumping out to a 21-9 lead in the game’s first ten minutes, the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 Tournament essentially put this game to bed by halftime taking a 39-20 edge into the locker room
However, on a day that saw Texas blow a 20-point first-half lead in a loss to TCU, there was a touch of trepidation for Red Raider fans as the second half opened, especially given that Tech entered this year’s postseason having not won a game in the Big 12 Tournament since reaching the semifinals in 2018.
But a lockdown defensive effort to open the game’s second stanza would assuage any fears of a collapse. Holding Iowa State scoreless for the first 6:29 of the second half, Tech would hold a 50-21 lead before the Cyclones would hit their first field goal of the half. The rest of the game was academic from there.
Tech held Iowa State’s best player, Izaiah Brockington to just 3-18 from the field. Entering the game averaging over 17 points per contest, the senior scored just seven points on the night while going just 1-6 from 3-point range.
Meanwhile, the Red Raiders’ veteran stars showed up in big ways. Playing his best game in weeks, Terrence Shannon Jr. led all scorers with 15 points. It was his first double-digit scoring effort since he had 14 against Baylor in Lubbock on February 16th.
Also, Tech was bolstered by the return of Kevin McCullar who had not played since February 26th due to a sprained ankle. Hot from beyond the arc, the junior went 3-4 from deep and 4-6 overall on his way to 11 points. He also added three assists, three rebounds, and a pair of steals in just 18 minutes of action.
The win was a welcome one for Texas Tech basketball fans who have had to endure plenty of heartbreak in Kansas City. Overall, the Red Raiders are now just 15-24 in the Big 12 Tournament all-time, and even some of the program’s best squads have failed to show up in this event.
But for one night, Texas Tech put all of those demons to rest and simply obliterated the Cyclones. Holding a 42-14 scoring edge in the paint and winning the rebounding battle 40-24, the Red Raiders were the more physical team for the entire 40 minutes of play.
What’s more, Tech forced Iowa State into 20 critical turnovers leading to 20 points. Meanwhile, ISU mustered just seven points off of 15 Red Raider giveaways.
Tech now turns its attention to another Big 12 team that it went 1-1 against in the regular season, Oklahoma. The Sooners stunned Baylor, which entered the tournament ranked No. 3 in the top 25, 72-67 in the game prior to the Red Raider’s whitewashing of ISU.
So far this season, the Red Raiders and the Sooners have split their meetings with each team winning by double-digits on their home court. And right now, Oklahoma may be playing its best basketball of the year.
Having won four-straight games, OU has played its way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble but they are likely still playing for their March Madness lives. As for the Red Raiders, they will be looking for just the program’s second-ever appearance in the Big 12 title game after reaching the finals back in 2005 when they lost to Oklahoma State. And if they play on Friday anywhere close to how they did on Thursday, it’s tough to imagine them not extending their stay in Kansas City for another day.