Even writing this the day after I'm still hyped up just thinking about the game. There are three places that are good to watch a Tech basketball game: shooting highlights on the baseline, covering the game from the legit media table, and sitting in the student section. I covered this game for my other job with Double T Insider and was made to sit in the overflow media section up in the very tip top of the arena in a corner. When you're covering a game sitting with the media, you're supposed to be quiet and unbiased and not react to anything. There were three other media members up there with me and I think that five words were said between us for the whole game. And my wifi wasn't working so it was my own personal hell.
That whole day for Texas Tech was filled with weirdness. It was Tech's birthday, around noon in the SUB the fire alarm went off for 15 minutes with no fire to be found, and Niagara Falls 2.0 opened up in the library. Typical Lubbock weirdness set the mood for the game that night.
Before tipoff I felt uneasy about the game with Temple's condition and Odiase's injury, but once the game got rolling I felt like I could relax. It took some time for the crowd to show up, but once they made it their impact was tangible. Being so high up caused a detachment to which media often cling and from which I run screaming in the opposite direction. Passionate biased media is so much more readable and entertaining than boring old sports reporting, which is why SB Nation is so great. However, I will continue my discussion on the future of sports media coverage at a later seminar.
Early in the game with the excitement only occasionally piping up, the crowd and the team felt static. It was a Wednesday night in early February. Everyone was drowsy and subdued. Were it not for the super hot fire brought by some Smith dunks and Justin Gray and Devaugntah Williams going off, this crowd might have taken a nap at halftime.
During pregame shootaround, I noted that Williams and Gotcher's shots were all falling from everywhere in the gym. Justin Gray's pregame jumpers weren't falling and you could see the frustration on his face from my bird's eye perch in the rafters. Once Gray saw those first two three pointers go in to start the game, it must have sparked his confidence and caused his scoring binge in the first half. A confident Williams is a key component in this team winning games. When he takes and makes plays like this, you know Tech is in for a good night.
The crowd roared once Toddrick Gotcher got loose in the open court. Once he found Zach Smith behind him I held my breath as I waited for Zach Smith to annihilate the rim:
Mad cries of jubilation erupted from the crowd once Zach slammed it down. After that slam the crowd could not be kept out of the game. Tough loss after tough loss burdened Tech fans this season, leaving them starved for something amazing to cheer for. This magnificent comeback gave them the inspiration we all so desperately craved.
Down nine with under 10 minutes remaining, the crowd became frantic. They screamed til their voices gave out and then they screamed s'more! If you were a part of that crowd pat yourself on the back because you were awesome out there. At the end of regulation when Zach Smith got tackled and somehow didn't earn a foul the whole crowd started screaming something like "pull spit." If you know what that means let me know because I am clueless.
Overtime was a constant barrage of crowd noise whenever Iowa State gained possession. The Cyclone discomfort was palpable and it's one of the reasons why Lubbock is such a hard place for opponents to come out with a win. United Supermarkets Arena was just waiting for a moment to erupt and with 1:34 left in OT Keenan Evans gave it to them.
All sanity was lost in this moment. No team can come back from a ridiculous shot like that. After the final buzzer sounded Red Raiders rushed the court to embrace their fellow students. You could feel a tension lifted from the arena with that win, and it felt excellent.
This year the Big XII has been an absolute buzzsaw of highly competitive teams, making it hard for a young team like Texas Tech to compete. However Tech has held its own this year despite nearly unanimous preseason predictions to finish last in the conference. Winning last night's game could generate some real momentum that this team hasn't had since late December.
No matter what happens the rest of the season, this will probably end up as my favorite game of the season unless we beat OU next week. Though I wasn't able to rush the court from the rafters, I did stand tall and sing the Matador Song in an empty press overflow section loudly and proudly all by myself; because no matter how stuffy the press box gets, nobody can stop me from boldly declaring "LONG LIVE THE MATADORS!"