Another heartbreaker for Texas Tech last night as they fell to Kansas 64-63. The game was a thrill to watch as the Red Raiders had 5 different players score 10+ points in a back and forth battle with a top 10 team. The game was not over until the final 1.7 seconds when Andrew Wiggins picked up a loose ball off his teammates bad dribble in front of the rim and luckily put it in the hoop.
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- Player of the Game | F Jordan Tolbert was in beast mode for this entire game. He was the guy that was giving the extra amount of hustle on every play. From start to finish this is the best game Tolbert had all year. Jaye Crockett sat on the bench more than usual getting into early foul trouble, but Tolbert picked up his slack. He finished with 16 points on 7-10 FG shooting, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals.
- Stat of the Game | Points in the Paint. Texas Tech fought the #8 team in the country with a solid frontcourt for points down low 30-24. There were some excellent drives that led to points in the paint, but the bulk of points inside came from Tolbert and Dejan Kravic. That inside presence was needed to pound a Kansas team that was defending the guys with lots of pressure. Plenty of well-defended inside shots that Tech made were with hands in their faces. Also, besides Dusty Hannahs, KU would lay off the Tech players from the outside and dare them to shoot. For a poor 3-point shooting team, Tech took advantage of the KU defensive strategy at times going 6-12 from downtown.
- How the Game was Lost | This was the type of game that was going to be won by the last team with an open look at the basket at the end. It was a back and forth fight that you couldn’t decide which team was playing better. When that is happening you only can guarantee one thing, and that is that you want your team to have the last shot. Tech ended up with the last shot, but a halfcourt bomb with 1.7 seconds left was not going to have a very good chance of getting the win. Both teams were fairly even in all statistical categories including rebounds 28-26, blocks 3-2, and steals 6-6. I did not see this game as lost because of a few missed free throws or bad shots, it was a great game. Andrew Wiggins got lucky to put a ball back right in front of his basket with 1.7 seconds left. The game was lost when our team collapsed to the drive on the basket and left Wiggins wide open for a loose ball to squirt his way. There is no shame in losing because of bad luck.
- Turning Point | The most memorable play that seemed to shoot a dagger into the hearts of everyone was when Tolbert and the KU players were called for a jump ball with 44 seconds left in the game. Tolbert used his strength to establish control of an offensive rebound off a miss from Crockett. There were a few blue jerseys around him that literally started flapping their arms at the ball while Tolbert maintained complete control of the ball. Most refs would look at the play and have called a reach in foul on a KU player, last night the call was a jump ball. The crowd and Tubby Smith were furious and it was at that moment that I felt the most disappointment all game long. The game was 61-60 in favor of Tech at the time, but the jump ball was awarded to KU and they proceeded to score and take the lead 62-61 after that horrible call.
- Team Observations | The team stuck to their game plan and did not get caught up in a up-tempo running game that KU would have easily won. Tech was making shots that they needed on offense, but it was the stellar defense that Tech played that really made the game winnable. My observation last night from the team was that they have no quit in their system of play. It is a grind mentality and relentless pursuit to keep fighting that makes our squad so fun to watch. The movement on defense against an extraordinarily strong Kansas team was never stopping. Coach Tubby Smith has our guys ready to do huge things. Come tournament time for the Big 12 people better watch out for the Red Raiders, because nobody will be safe when we hit the court. Wreck ‘em Tech!