Being down 20 points to one of the hottest teams in the nation was not where the Texas Tech men’s basketball team wanted — or needed — to be in its Big 12 Conference opener on Saturday.
But the Red Raiders also showed that despite having another first-year head coach, they don’t plan on being league also-rans, either.
Tech rallied the deficit midway through the second half to tie, but No. 13 Iowa State showed why it has been so good all season, stopping the rally to forge a 73-62 victory in the first Big 12 game of the season at United Spirit Arena.
“One of the hardest things to do in sports is stop a momentum run,” Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We found a way to do it and reverse it and finish out the game.”
Iowa State (1-0 in Big 12) remains undefeated, and its 13-0 start is the longest win streak to start a season and matches the longest win streak in program history.
“Iowa State just found a way to win,” Tech head coach Tubby Smith said. “They made the winning plays that we just didn’t make. That’s the difference between winning and losing. I thought we gave a valiant effort to start the second half.”
The Cyclones had four players finish in double digits in scoring — Georges Niang with 17, Melvin Ejim with 16, DeAndre Kane with 15 and Monte Morris with 11.
Jaye Crockett led the Red Raiders (8-6, 0-1) with 20, followed by Dusty Hannahs with 16 and Jordan Tolbert with 11.
“The guards were just finding me on screens,” Crockett said. “I would go and help them on screens and then they would just draw two people toward them and they just kicked it out to me. I was there to make the shot. I think the guards helped a lot.”
In the first half, Texas Tech got within five points of the Cyclones, but Iowa State pulled away with a 15-5 run to end the half, going into the locker room with a 44-29 lead.
The Cyclones were able to extend the lead because, defensively, they forced Tech to settle for contested jumpers instead of getting the ball into the paint.
“We tried to have a plan to keep them out of the paint,” Hoiberg said. “I thought we executed that pretty well. Crockett got out there and really got it going, hit some shots, and Hannahs got it going. We messed up some locations after we double-teamed the post. But we did want them to shoot a contested jump shot. For the most part, we did a good job of that.”
Coming out of the half, the Red Raiders, thanks to hot shooting and dominance on the boards, went on a 21-6 run to tie the game at 50 with 12:30 remaining..
Iowa State, however, buckled down defensively and made a handful of baskets to regain the lead.
“We started playing with energy again,” Hoiberg said. “In the first 20 minutes we were really locked in. We did a great job of moving and sharing the ball … We just came out of the locker room dead in the water (to start the second half). It allowed them an opportunity to get in the game. I give those guys a lot of credit for continuing to play.”
From there the Cyclones regained control of the glass and Tech couldn’t get shots to fall.
They also turned the ball over a couple of times trying to get the ball inside.
“Looking back at it, it’s obviously something you didn’t want to do after all that work to get it to a tie game,” Hannahs said. “In the moment we were still amped up and ready to go. We just had a couple missed assignments and a couple shots fell for them. Just didn’t bounce our way a couple times. That’s basketball.”
One major factor of Iowa State’s strong close was the six free throws it shot in the final 90 seconds.
Overall, Tech allowed Iowa State 24 total points from the free-throw line.
“Stop fouling,” Smith said. “We got guys reaching, not playing defense. In the scouting report we tell them to force a guy a certain way and they can’t remember that, obviously. There’s some things we’ve got to continue to work on.”
While fouls were a problem, Tech improved defensively, especially on the perimeter.
Iowa State came into Lubbock leading the conference with nine 3-pointers a game, but the Cyclones made only five against Texas Tech, a team ranked 10th in the Big 12 in defending the three.
“It’s easier to get out there with one hand,” Hannahs said. “We made our defense less extended inside the three point line. Our struggles really came from not switching properly, but I thought as a whole, guarding the three, we did a good job.”
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