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After long layoff, Tech faces challenging slate of non-conference games

Time well spent

Posted: December 15, 2012 - 7:41pm  |  Updated: December 16, 2012 - 1:50am
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Texas Tech's Jaye Crockett and the Texas Tech men's basketball team will return to the court today(Sunday) for the first time since Dec. 4 against McNeese State. (Stephen Spillman)
Texas Tech's Jaye Crockett and the Texas Tech men's basketball team will return to the court today(Sunday) for the first time since Dec. 4 against McNeese State. (Stephen Spillman)
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The Texas Tech basketball team better have enjoyed its recent 12-day break from game action, because it won’t have much time off in the near future.

The Red Raiders host McNeese State at 5 p.m. today to kick off a stretch of three games in six days, including two against major-conference programs. Tech will welcome Alabama to United Spirit Arena on Wednesday, followed by another home game against Arizona State on Saturday.

Talk about a busy holiday.

“It is a unique challenge,” Tech coach Chris Walker said. “What I want to us to accomplish is playing hard every single night. It’s a challenge with the way we get up and down. But playing in the NCAA tournament or the Big 12 tournament, you have to be able to turn it up right away.”

Tech’s recent time off gave the Red Raiders (5-1) the kind of extended practice they hadn’t had to this point under Walker, who was tabbed the team’s interim coach on Oct. 4. The space of time between then and Tech’s first exhibition game on Nov. 1 was spent laying the basic groundwork — both on offense and on defense — of Walker’s new up-tempo systems.

So for the past 12 days, the Red Raiders have had the opportunity to practice at full speed with schemes that are now much more familiar.

“The time off gave us time to learn and fix all the little things we messed up,” Tech forward Jaye Crockett said. “We made sure no one went on the floor and didn’t know a play or where they are supposed to be on the court, and stuff like that.”

While the games against foes from the Southeastern Conference and the Pac-12 later this week will certainly test Tech’s improvements, they could also be in for a fight against a McNeese State (5-3) squad that has won four straight games, including an eight-point victory against Louisiana Tech on Wednesday.

“Their guard play has been great,” Walker said. “Their confidence is growing. They are going to try to come in here and pull off a win against a Big 12 team. Their confidence is sky high, but ours is, too. We’re not overconfident; we just have to go in there and play Texas Tech basketball.”

Four different McNeese State players are averaging at least 10.5 points per game.

“We need to make sure we go out there,” said Crockett, Tech’s leading scorer at 15.3 points per game, “with all five players on the same page.”

Time well spent

While Tech spent a good deal of time focusing on its half-court offense during its recent 12-day layoff, Chris Walker said he also allotted plenty of hours for players to prepare for final exams. The Red Raiders, he said, have had a collective grade-point average of 3.0 or better in each of the last four semesters, and he is confident results will be similar after this grading period.

“We’re going to try to keep that streak going,” Walker said.

Players and coaches have also participated in a number of charity initiatives in recent weeks, from delivering meals to families to collecting toys for children.

“The bottom line is altruism should be our goal as human beings,” Walker said. “It’s a building block and foundation in my life, and I want them to understand that to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Free throws

Tickets for today’s game against McNeese State, as well as the Tech women’s game at 2 p.m. against Northern Colorado, can be purchased for only $1. ... Texas Tech ranks 14th nationally at 81.2 points per game. ... McNeese State’s top player, Desharick Guidry, is averaging a near double-double at 13.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. ... Tech freshman Josh Gray has 18 steals this season, most of any player in the Big 12 Conference. Gray grew up in Lake Charles, La., the home city of McNeese State. He was high school teammates with Guidry for two seasons at Washington-Marion High.

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College basketball

Who: McNeese State vs. Texas Tech

When: 5 p.m. today

Where: United Spirit Arena

Records: McNeese State 5-3; Tech 5-1

Last meeting: Texas Tech 76, McNeese State 75 on Jan. 1, 2010

TV: Fox Sports Southwest (Suddenlink Cable channel 20; Direct TV 676; Dish Network 416)

Radio: KTTU 104.3 FM

Info: Tickets for both the men’s and women’s games can be purchased for $1.

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