As a Texas Tech player checked out during the first half of the team’s game against Baylor on Tuesday, he was met at the sideline by coach Chris Walker, who delivered a simple, stern message.
The gist: Welcome to the Big 12 Conference.
The Red Raiders learned the hard way what it will take to compete in one of the nation’s top leagues, suffering an 82-48 trouncing at the hands of the Bears inside United Spirit Arena.
“It’s just our journey,” Walker said. “We can sit here and sugarcoat things however we want. It’s where we are. I don’t want to belabor the point about having new players. It’s our reality.”
That reality Tech demonstrated Tuesday is it simply isn’t in the same class at this point as a team like Baylor, which handed Tech its second-worst home loss inside United Spirit Arena. The worst came last season in an 81-46 loss to Kansas, which visits Lubbock at 3 p.m. Saturday.
The Bears (10-4, 2-0 in Big 12 play) were in control from the start. After Jaye Crockett hit his first of a career-high three 3-pointers to cut the lead to 10-8, the Bears ripped off a 25-6 run to put a stranglehold on the game it would never loosen. From there it was a Baylor highlight reel of dunks (seven) and 3-pointers (8 of 14).
It was an eye-opener for the majority of Red Raiders, Walker said, who have never faced a team as talented as Baylor.
“We made a couple errors throughout the game that cost us some big buckets,” Tech freshman Dusty Hannahs said. “You can’t give a team like that a chance to go on runs.”
Baylor went on plenty of those. Point guard Pierre Jackson and forward Cory Jefferson combined for 25 points in the first half. The Red Raiders had 23 points as a team at intermission.
“Our goal was to take away their confidence,” said Baylor assistant coach Jerome Tang, who filled in for suspended head coach Scott Drew, “and see what they were made of.”
Jackson, the Big 12’s preseason player of the year, had his way with Tech, directing an offense that scored at will. He finished with 18 points and seven assists in 27 minutes.
Jefferson, who led the league in field-goal percentage entering Tuesday’s action, padded his lead by hitting 7 of 9 shots (most of them dunks) for 17 points. The same scoring line was produced by Isaiah Austin, the 7-foot-1 freshman forward, whose back-to-back 3-pointers in the second half helped the Bears lead by as many as 39.
Jaye Crockett, Tech’s only double-figures scorer with 13 points, said the team’s defensive woes came down to a lack of execution from the very start.
“Tonight we definitely didn’t have enough effort from the whole team total,” he said. “We could have come out and played harder. We just have to change it next game."
As much as Tech (8-5, 1-1) struggled defensively, the scene on offense may have been even uglier. Rarely could the Red Raiders initiate any against Baylor’s quicker, lengthier defenders. Tech shot just 30.5 percent from the floor, too often settling for 3-point attempts it rarely converted (5 of 24 ).
Walker said the team “absolutely” put up too many long range shots.
“Especially early,” he said. “That certainly wasn’t our game plan.”
Now it’s back to the drawing board to come up with another one as the Red Raiders ready for one of college basketball’s traditional powers in Kansas, a team that has won at least a share of the last eight Big 12 titles.
“There’s a maturity level we just have to muster,” Walker said. “We just haven’t gotten it against really good teams yet. That’s our challenge.”
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