Texas Tech basketball: Red Raiders knock off No. 12 KSU

Feb 11, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders guard DeÕVion Harmon 923) reacts at the end of the second half against the Kansas State Wildcats at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 11, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders guard DeÕVion Harmon 923) reacts at the end of the second half against the Kansas State Wildcats at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Sure, the Texas Tech basketball team hasn’t won very many Big 12 games this year.  But thus far, when the Red Raiders have managed to pick up a conference win, they’ve done so by taking down some of the top teams in the nation.

Saturday night in Lubbock, it was No. 12 Kansas State that became the second top-15 team in the last three weeks to fall at United Supermarkets Arena joining then No. 13 Iowa State in the list of Red Raider victims.  In a 71-63 rock fight that featured 46 personal fouls and 41 turnovers between the two teams, Tech finally found a way to make winning plays down the stretch while also managing to take advantage of a particularly poor effort from the Wildcats.  Let’s go inside this satisfying game to revel in a second conference win this season.

Washington atones

Last time out, Lamar Washington was an absolute train wreck with no points and six turnovers in Wednesday’s loss to Oklahoma State and he deserved any amount of criticism that came his way.  What a difference a few days can make, though, as the freshman guard turned in what could arguably be described as his best game thus far as a collegiate.

Scoring 13 points and coming up with 5 steals, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists off of the bench, Washington was a huge reason for Tech’s victory on Saturday night.  Playing 19 minutes, he gave Tech some much-needed scoring on a night when the team’s leading scorer, Kevin Obanor, had a modest 10 points, and two other starters, Elijah Fisher and Kerwin Walton tallied just four points between them.

For most of the year, Tech has struggled to find scoring from its reserves but in this game, the bench scoring was even between the two teams, and that was due in large part to Washington’s surprising scoring outburst, which included two 3-pointers.

Now, it must be pointed out that Washington remains far too turnover-prone.  Four giveaways, as he had on Saturday, are too many for a player who handles the ball as often as he does.

However, it’s easier to stomach those miscues on a night when he atones for them by providing a consistent scoring punch.  Here’s hoping this game can be a springboard for the youngster.

Nowell and Johnson kept in check

KSU is powered by two all-conference caliber players, Keyonte Johnson, and Markquis Nowell.  When the Wildcats beat Tech in Manhattan last month, that duo accounted for 38 of their team’s 68 points.

This time around, they managed only 23 points as a duo.  Most importantly, Tech kept Johnson, who averages 18 points per game, to just ten points on 3-11 shooting.  In fact, he and the 5-foot-8 Nowell would make just 8 of the 30 shots they would attempt.

After the loss to OK State on Wednesday, we discussed how all season long, Tech has allowed the star guards that they face to go wild.  But in this game, an unusually active Red Raider defense flustered Nowell and didn’t let Johnson bully his way to another standout performance.  That was refreshing to see given how often this season’s team has floundered on the defensive end of the court.

Finally, an opponent didn’t go wild from deep

Another key to this win was the fact that KSU was cold from 3-point range all night.  Going just 6-26 from deep, they shot just 23.1% as a team while Tech was slightly better at 7-25 (28%).

Consider how rare it has been for the Red Raiders to actually have an advantage from beyond the arc in Big 12 play this season.  Though this was the second-straight game in which the Red Raiders have outshot their opponent from deep, in all, 7 Big 12 opponents have outshot the Red Raiders from downtown and Tech hasn’t managed to find a way to overcome thse disadvantages.  Saturday, the Wildcats were abysmal from the outside and that helped the Red Raiders pull off the surprise.

Tech never got into a huge hole

Another reoccurring problem that has plagued the Red Raiders this year has been falling into large holes.  Outside of the 23-point comeback against Iowa State, that has spelled doom for Tech each time.

In this game, Tech actually played from ahead for the vast majority of the game and that was critical.  In fact, the Red Raiders held the lead for 24:21 of the 40 minutes played and they never trailed by more than 5 points.

It is easier to protect a lead than it is to erase one.  Time and again, Tech has spent just about all of its energy trying to climb back into games only to be unable to close the deal but in the victory over KSU, Tech held a lead for almost the entire second half, and that put pressure on the Wildcats as they had to face the thought of losing to the last-place team in the conference.

I firmly believe that pressure led directly to the Wildcat’s 23 turnovers as their stars started to press resulting in uncharacteristic mistakes.  That’s why it’s so important to keep from falling into massive deficits, especially for a team like Tech that has serious flaws.

Navigating foul trouble

Even in a game as physical as Saturday’s was, the officials were a bit overly whistle-happy and that could have spelled doom for the home team.  In fact, for most of the second half, the Red Raiders’ two main post presences, Kevin Obanor, and Fardaws Aimaq were both saddled with four fouls.  However, that didn’t derail the Red Raiders.

Robert Jennings and K.J. Allen, two slightly-utilized bench pieces, each gave Tech 13 minutes of solid play.  Both scored three points and Jennings corraled four boards while Allen grabbed three.  Meanwhile, each played solid defense while Obanor and Aimaq watched from the bench.

What could have been a disastrous situation for Tech, especially given that big man Daniel Batcho did not play due to a lower-leg injury, didn’t wind up costing the Red Raiders a win.  In fact, the foul trouble for both of Tech’s primary post players was hardly noticeable thanks to Jennings and Allen.