A gallon of gas cost about a dollar, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” topped the pop charts and the box-office smash “E.T.” was fascinating audiences nationwide.
OK, maybe it only seems like it’s been that long since the Texas Tech basketball team played a home game.
The Red Raiders (4-4) will tip off against Grambling State (0-6) at 7 p.m. today, their first game in front of a United Spirit Arena crowd in 27 days and first contest overall since a Dec. 6 loss at Texas Christian.
Tech stayed plenty busy in the interim, finishing finals, engaging in a wide range of community-service activities and, of course, practicing. But make no mistake, the Red Raiders are anxious to put their uniforms on again.
“We’re excited for our fans,” junior guard Ty Nurse said. “They are very supportive. We just want to put on a good show, get the win.”
The game against Grambling State will be the first of four remaining non-conference games for the Red Raiders, who open up the Big 12 Conference slate on Jan. 4 at Oklahoma State.
Tech coach Billy Gillispie said last week that more important for his team than the remaining non-conference contests is its opportunity to practice before the Big 12 schedule begins.
“Hopefully we’ll learn and make drastic improvements,” he said, “because we definitely need to do that before conference starts. ... We’re assessing players, and hopefully players are taking stock in themselves and saying, ‘OK, I’ve got to get better at this.’”
Nurse, second on the team in scoring at 11.5 points per game, said Tech has made noticeable progress since coming up short against the Horned Frogs. With finals behind them, the Red Raiders have been able to devote more time to practices in the midst of the holiday break, time the young squad knows it needs.
“We’ve definitely worked on some weaknesses in practice the last 12 days,” Nurse said. “Hopefully that will show in the game. We’re just trying to get better every day, step by step.”
At times this season, Nurse’s play has been a major benefiting factor for the Red Raiders. His 29-point performance in the season-opener against Troy, which included a number of clutch shots down the stretch, helped Tech begin the Gillispie era with a victory.
The Midland College transfer said he is learning what it takes to be consistent — game in, game out — at the major-college level.
“This is a very high level,” Nurse said. “I’ve learned that you have to practice beyond what’s comfortable to get where you want to get. You have to push yourself every single day. Going beyond our limits is what our coaches want for us.”
One major focus for Tech has been limiting turnovers. After committing a season-low eight turnovers against Texas A&M Corpus Christi, the Red Raiders coughed the ball up 20 times in the loss to TCU.
Nurse, though, believes that as the Red Raiders become more comfortable in their offensive sets — which they’ve shown signs of over the last few games — some of those mistakes will diminish.
“As we learn more, we’ll be able to better anticipate where we’re going to pass it, where players are going to cut,” the guard said. “Once we have a better feel for our offense, the turnovers are definitely going to go down.”
Fans who bring a toy for donation can receive free admission to today’s game.
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