An old rivalry is about to become even more familiar.
The Texas Tech men’s basketball team will play its second straight road game at 6 p.m. today against Texas Christian. It is a preview of a future conference matchup with the Horned Frogs, who will join the Big 12 next season.
The two teams already share a rich history of head-to-head meetings in men’s basketball. The series between Tech (4-3) — which holds a 72-46 edge in games between the two squads — and TCU (6-2) dates back to 1932, with TCU winning the inaugural low-scoring affair, 30-19. The schools, former rivals in the now-defunct Southwest Conference, have played each other in 56 out of the last 57 seasons, including 12 straight.
But for all the history between the two teams, there is little familiarity with the rivalry for this batch of Tech players. Only three Red Raiders took part in last season’s tilt — an 81-77 TCU win in Lubbock — and today’s game will feature another test for a young squad that showed growth in a 61-54 road win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
“To have a chance to celebrate in an opponent’s locker room is difficult,” Tech coach Billy Gillispie said. “It’s hard to win anywhere, especially on the road.”
Gillispie noted that the deer-in-the-headlights looks have become fewer and farther between for the Red Raiders. That was evident on Thursday, when the team, playing in a true road environment for the first time this season, turned the ball over just eight times — Tech entered the game averaging almost 19 turnovers per contest — and overcame the late exit of its primary post players, Robert Lewandowski and Jordan Tolbert, who both fouled out near the five-minute mark of the second half.
A&M-Corpus Christi followed with full-court pressure, which the Red Raiders handled with few mistakes. Their execution against the press led to a 6-0 run late — including back-to-back layups from Jaron Nash — that helped preserve the outcome.
“Really, after Lewandowski and Tolbert were out, we never had to run any offense other than just trying to protect the lead and win the game,” Gillispie said. “The press kind of helped us a little bit, because we had had a hard time scoring. ... We caught the ball, faced up and got a couple easy ones.”
Following an 0-3 mark at the Old Spice Classic during Thanksgiving weekend, Gillispie challenged his team to understand the difference between playing hard and competing. The Red Raiders made strides toward that goal against the Islanders.
Not all of that progress could be measured in the stat sheets, but there were examples against A&M-Corpus Christi nonetheless. In one instance, a loose ball rolled into the backcourt, and junior guard Ty Nurse employed a full-extension dive across the floor to grab the ball and retain possession.
It’s plays like that Tech’s first-year coach is looking for on a consistent basis.
“They competed quite a bit harder,” Gillispie said. “Our defense was really good for the most part.”
That defense will be tested against a Horned Frogs team that features three players who average double figures in scoring. Senior guard Hank Thorns — who hit the game-winner in TCU’s overtime win Saturday against Evansville — leads the team with 12.8 points and 4.8 assists per game. TCU’s biggest win this season came against Virginia (7-1), 57-55, at the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam.
After Thursday’s game, Tech doesn’t play again until Dec. 18, when it hosts Grambling State.
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