First-year Texas Tech men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith often talks about the task of changing the culture both within and surrounding the program after several sub-par seasons.
Wednesday’s 82-72 victory over No. 12 Baylor was a huge step in that process, and doing so in front of a season-high crowd of more than 9,500 was perfect timing.
Now comes the hard part — doing it again, and doing it on the road.
Texas Tech (9-8, 1-3 in Big 12) takes its momentum from the victory across the state to Fort Worth to battle TCU (9-7, 0-4), also looking for its first victory but coming off a humbling 82-50 loss to No. 9 Oklahoma State.
“We’ve built on losses, so it was a good win for us,” Smith said after the victory on Wednesday. “But it was a win long overdue. Hopefully this will get the players to appreciate the things we’ve been talking about. So, yes, this is a big win for our program at this time, but I expect a lot more.”
That starts with beating a TCU team that is in the same position Tech was in going into Wednesday, only a year ahead in the second season under head coach Trent Johnson. And the Red Raiders can take confidence from the fact that as much as they struggled last year, they swept the season series from the Horned Frogs, including a 62-53 victory at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.
That also happens to be Tech’s last road victory, so a win today would break a 12-game road losing streak as well as give the Red Raiders consecutive Big 12 victories since 2011.
To do so, the Red Raiders will have to repeat their effort in outworking the Horned Frogs at the little things like they did against the Bears. Tech and TCU rank at the bottom of the Big 12 in both rebounding average and assists and toward the bottom in assist-to-turnover ratio.
On Wednesday, the Red Raiders outrebounded Baylor 35-29, marking the 12th time in 17 games Tech has outrebounded its opponent. Tech also shot 70 percent from the field for the 12th time this year, and had just nine turnovers to 15 assists, something that had happened only eight times previous this season.
“I think we just didn’t force any plays on offense,” senior forward Jaye Crockett said, “found the open man, guys were cutting to the basket, we found the open guy and we were knocking down shots.”
Crockett and junior forward Jordan Tolbert have become a nice 1-2 scoring punch for the Red Raiders. Crockett is 12th in the league in scoring at 14.7 points per game while Tolbert is 19th at 12.4. Both also rank in the top 16 in the conference in rebounding.
TCU, meanwhile, is paced by the 15.1 points per game by junior guard Kyan Anderson, and junior forward Amric Fields is starting to round back into shape after missing most of last year and the first three games of this season due to an injury, averaging 13.6 points per game and scoring in double digits in seven of the nine games he’s played.
Because they were just in that position, the Red Raiders know how dangerous the Horned Frogs will be.
“They’re playing to beat us just like (Tech’s) next game at West Virginia,” Crockett said. “It’s the beginning of this conference, a fight every day. This conference is going to be a dog fight.”
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