It was the start the Texas Tech men’s basketball team has been wanting all season long.
The Red Raiders were getting the ball in the paint, like head coach Tubby Smith wants, and winning the battle on the boards. To top it all off, Tech finished with a 15-9 assist to turnover ratio.
Texas Tech excelled in every area in a big-time game and upset No. 12 Baylor 82-72 Wednesday night at United Spirit Arena, prompting an announced crowd of 9,516 to rush the court in celebration.
“Taking care of the basketball is important,” Smith said. “That tells me guys are looking for one another, especially early on. I was really impressed with Dejan (Kravic) how he passed when he found Jordan (Tolbert) and Jaye (Crockett) open on cuts to the basket early on. I think that loosened their defense up on the inside.”
The victory gave Tech (9-8, 1-3) its first Big 12 win of the season and broke a 34-game losing streak to ranked teams. It was also the first time Texas Tech defeated Baylor at home since Feb. 7, 2009 (83-76).
“They were hungrier than us,” Baylor junior point guard Kenny Chery said. “We didn’t come out with the composure to win this game. They came out like it was the last game of their life.”
Baylor dropped to 13-3 and 1-2 in the Big 12. The only other teams to beat the Bears this season are No. 2 Syracuse — one of the last undefeated teams left in the nation — and No. 8 Iowa State, which was unbeaten until Saturday.
Tech senior forward Dejan Kravic said that senior forward Jaye Crockett gave the team some motivation before the tip.
“Jaye showed us the box score from last year’s game here against Baylor,” Kravic said. “He printed it off and circled that score, 82-48, for them. That got us pumped up. And to see the crowd energetic got us pumped up even more.”
Smith bought lunch for Tech students, 135 of them, earlier Wednesday at the Student Union. Smith said he would do it again to get them to come to the “Spirit Arena, the best name for an arena,” as the Red Raiders fed off the energy from the largest crowd all season.
Junior forward Jordan Tolbert sent a message to the Bears on Tech’s first possession of the game with a dunk over 7-foot-1 sophomore center Isaiah Austin.
It was all Texas Tech from the get-go, attacking inside, Baylor’s strength defensively, and scoring. By halftime, the Red Raiders were up 43-22 after shooting 62.1 percent. Although Baylor rallied, the Bears had too big a hole to escape.
Tech outscored the Bears in the paint 40-38.
“We did a good job contesting shots,” Smith said. “We made them shoot over us. It was probably our best game as far as the number of shots we challenged.”
All five Texas Tech starters scored in double digits — Crockett with 19, sophomore guard Toddrick Gotcher with 17, Kravic and junior point guard Rob Turner with 14 each and Tolbert with 11.
“Looking at the stats, we got everyone on the same page once and for all,” Smith said. “There’s been games where our guards were playing well but our post players didn’t play well. We’ve been strong inside all year. ... (The forwards) shoot from a high percentage, but now our guards are starting to take better shots and getting better looks. They fell tonight.”
Kravic led Tech with six assists followed by Turner with three.
“They’re a really tough team and they pushed me out of the post a bit,” Kravic said. “When I caught it there, I noticed that their players were ball watching and our players did a great job of cutting to the basket.”
Baylor coach Scott Drew credited Tech for playing harder than his team and said Kravic was a problem for the Bears the whole game.
“Turner did a great job of getting into the paint,” Drew said. “When they needed a big play, it seemed like he was there to make it. When he missed, Kravic got the rebound and then they made it.”
Baylor shot 41.3 percent, led by Chery with 22 and sophomore forwards Taurean Prince with 13 and Rico Gathers with 11.
Coming into the game, the Bears were outrebounded only once this season.
Make that twice.
Texas Tech pulled down 35 boards to Baylor’s 29.
Baylor 6-9 senior Cory Jefferson and the 7-1 Austin pulled down only five rebounds between the two of them. They average 8.8 and 5.7, respectively.
For Smith, this win was a long time coming after Tech’s close losses throughout the start of conference play.
“We’ve built on a lot of losses,” Smith said. “That’s what helped us get this win. It was a good win for us. It was a win that was long overdue because I thought we gave away three games this year. We found a way to win tonight.”
Jubilant fans streamed onto the court to celebrate when it was over.
Crockett, in his fifth year year as a Red Raider, said this win is No. 1 for him.
“We got to rush the court my freshman year, but I was in a sweat suit like this,” he said. “So this is the first time I had the jersey on to rush the court so it felt amazing.”
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