One of the aspects that makes college basketball so fascinating is that 40-minute games often leave little time for teams to climb out of huge holes. However, that's what the Texas Tech basketball team is doing with regularity in Big 12 play as Grant McCasland's squad shows impressive fight.
That tenacity was on display again on Saturday in the 85-84 win at No. 11 Oklahoma and it is quickly becoming the defining characteristic of this team.
No one can count this Texas Tech basketball team out
In each of the last four Big 12 games, Texas Tech has been in a situation where the opponent has appeared to have the Red Raiders by the throat. Yet, only the Houston Cougars were able to land the knockout punch.
The trend of Red Raider comebacks started on January 13 in Lubbock. That day, the Kansas State Wildcats landed a haymaker in the first half with a 20-0 run to close out the game's opening stanza.
With KSU leading 33-22 at the break, the Wildcats had a win probability of 77%. What's more, when they held a 38-26 lead with 18:18 to go in the game, their win probability was 82.6%. That would grow to as high as 90.8% when KSU held a 55-46 lead with 4:37 left in the game.
In fact, that day, Tech wouldn't take its first lead of the second half until the :30 mark of the final 20 minutes when Joe Toussaint completed an old fashioned 3-point play. Tech would close that game on an 11-5 run including holding KSU to just 1-5 shooting over the final 2:35 of the game on the way to a 60-59 win.
A week later, following the loss to Houston, Tech returned home to face then No. 20 BYU. That day, the Red Raiders played their worst first half of the season and trailed 48-32 at the break.
At that point, the Cougars' win probability was 94.8%. Even with as little 8:23 to play, BYU had a win probability of 79.7% when they led 62-57.
Again, though, Tech would mount a furious rally. That was fueled by Pop Isaacs who would hit three shots from beyond the arc on his way to 13 points in the final five minutes of the game. It was part of a career-high 32 points as he put his team on his shoulders for an 85-78 win.
Then, this weekend in Norman, Oklahoma, the Red Raiders had to fight back in the second half once more. After a back-and-forth game that was just a one-point affair at intermission, the Sooners would jump out to a 68-59 lead with just over seven minutes to play.
With that advantage on their home court, OU had a win probability of 93.9%. However, Tech again found a way to get up off the mat.
Right after that moment, Tech would answer with three straight buckets, one from Darrion Williams, one from Chance McMillan, and one from Warren Washington to get right back into the game and cut the deficit to 68-66.
Of course, by the end of the game, Tech would storm back for an 85-84 win to stun yet another Big 12 opponent. That means that in each of this team's last three wins, Tech faced a win probability of less than 23% in the second half and in each, the Red Raiders would find a way to prevail.
Ultimately, no one is going to argue that the 2023-24 Texas Tech basketball team has the most talented roster in the Big 12. There is only one Red Raider likely to warrant All-Big 12 consideration, Pop Isaacs. The rest of the team is a collection of solid pieces who know what their role is and who play those roles well on a game-by-game basis.
Where this team might be the best in the Big 12, though, is in terms of toughness and grit. Those intangibles can carry a team to places its talent suggests it shouldn't be able to reach and for the Red Raiders, that's first place in the conference standings as we head into the final days of January.
How far those traits can carry this team is yet to be seen. However, what we already know is that the Red Raiders are more than tough enough to survive life in the most rugged conference in the nation. That's because almost every time that this team has been left for dead, it has come back to life and fought to a win. That's something that every Red Raider fan has come to love about their team this season.