Texas Tech basketball: With every reason to quit, Red Raiders showed fight vs. LSU

Jan 28, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders guard De'Vion Harmon (23) reacts to a play against the LSU Tigers during the first half at Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 28, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders guard De'Vion Harmon (23) reacts to a play against the LSU Tigers during the first half at Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports /

Many teams in the position that the Texas Tech basketball team found itself in on Saturday would have searched for a reason to quit.  An eight-game losing streak?  Check.  A road game against a team that is one of the worst in the nation in an arena that was half-full?  Check.  Missing two starters?  Check.  Almost no hope of an NCAA Tournament bid? Check.  Coming off of a game in which you were just blown out at home by the second-worst team in your conference?  Check.

All the elements were there for the Red Raiders to mail it in, not only just on Saturday but for the rest of the season.  And many (myself included) almost expected as much. Fortunately, Mark Adams’ team decided to write a different story.

No one knows if the 76-68 win in Baton Rouge will lead to any type of meaningful momentum.  In fact, given that four of Tech’s next five opponents are ranked, it seems unlikely.

However, by at least putting forth a solid effort against LSU, this young squad showed us that there is still some pride left in that locker room.  While a win over a bottom-feeding SEC team isn’t going to right all of this season’s wrongs, that performance at least lets us know that this team hasn’t quit on the season, or on its head coach.

If that sounds a bit dramatic, think back to what we saw from the Red Raiders just three days prior.  In a 15-point home loss to a West Virginia team that entered that game 1-7 in Big 12 action, Adams’ team was out-hustled, out-muscled, and out-willed in a game that just about everyone felt was this season’s version of a last stand.

Leaving that game, it was trendy to predict that this team would go winless in Big 12 play.  That’s certainly a scenario that I couldn’t discount either.  And yes, as we enter the final game of January, that possibility remains alive.  What’s more, given that Tech hosts a top-15 Iowa State team tonight, we will probably flip the calendar to February with the good guys still searching for that elusive first league victory.

However, the win over the Tigers may tell us to stop waiting for the moment that we can officially say that this team has quit.  While talent, execution, and experience may be in limited supply in Lubbock this season, perhaps grit and fight won’t be.

After all, this is a team that took Kansas and Texas to the final possession while going to overtime against Oklahoma despite being down two starters that night as well.  In fact, outside of the final ten minutes of the West Virginia game and the horrendous 34-point loss to the Cyclones in Ames, these overmatched Red Raiders have put forth a respectable effort in every game this year.

Of course, that’s no silver lining in a season that’s gone so horribly awry to this point.  All fans should expect more from a program that has the type of facilities, fan support, recent history of winning, and financial backing that Texas Tech has to at least be relevant in the conference race after the first month of league games.

Still, we must remember that this is a program, not just a team. Even in the era of the transfer portal when rosters can swap out eight or nine players in a single offseason, setting a tone and developing or maintaining a culture is important because those intangibles do carry over from year to year.

Regardless of if this team manages to win another game this season, it is imperative that the players continue to show respect to the name on the front of their jerseys and to the fans that show up to support them and continue to treat each game as if it is of critical importance.

For one, the young players on this team who are going through Big 12 play for the first time must learn how to grind away game after game if they are ever going to develop into cornerstone pieces of a winning roster.  What’s more, even if several of this year’s regulars seek a new home next season, the fight that the 2022-23 Red Raiders show down the stretch will set the tone for the future of the program.

If this team gives up, much of the fan base (especially the student body) might as well.  That would mean that next year’s team will have to win back a sizeable chunk of its constituency after years of sold-out crowds at the U.S.A.

Additionally, should this team mail it in for the final month and a half, there will likely be a brand new coaching staff leading the program next season which would signal a complete rebuild for a program that struggled so mightily to reach the top of the college basketball heap over the last decade.  That would be a painful scenario for Tech fans to endure given how accustomed to success we’ve become.

Again, one win over a pitiful LSU team isn’t going to change the course of Texas Tech basketball history.  Heck, it doesn’t register as a conference win nor will it be part of any conversation about Tech’s resume should the Red Raiders miraculously find themselves anywhere near the bubble in March.

What it did do, though, was send an important message to everyone that has emotionally invested in this program, a message that says that there remains a reason to stay plugged in for now.  When there was a mountain of excuses staring this team in the face, it responded with the type of stubborn, feisty, and competitive effort that Texas Tech athletics has built its reputation on across virtually every sport.

So while there were no parades down Broadway on Sunday and no fire department water cannons welcoming the team plane home from the bayou on Saturday night, there is now a hint of life in a team that looked like it might be on the verge of flatlining before the second month of the calendar year arrived.  Regardless of how disappointed we may be in what’s transpired thus far, we must acknowledge that this team refused to roll over and play dead, and instead, at least for one Saturday, it showed some signs of a pulse.

Now, it will be up to the fan base to do the same tonight when Iowa State comes calling.  That’s because, if this team is still willing to muster up a tussle, the good folks of West Texas must reward that fighting spirit and do their part as well.  After all, we can’t let what we’ve built over the past decade crumble in the span of two months.