Upsets at Texas Tech. Man, do we love them. When our Red Raiders are facing an opponent that is ranked, is a rival, and it’s a home game, we tend to get a bit upbeat from dawn to dusk. To quote the late coach Herb Brooks,"Great moments are born from great opportunities."
Quoting Herb Brooks in this particular piece is not coincidental. Herb Brooks was the head coach and the architect of arguably the greatest upset of all-time, the Miracle on Ice. Texas Tech has an excellent chance to pull off an upset of their own tonight.
Let’s get some perspective and separate a few things out. No, Texas Tech and Oklahoma are not on the brink of Nuclear War. No, Texas Tech is not as drastic of an underdog against Oklahoma as the US was against Russia (line was OU-3.5 at time article was written). No, this game will not be made into a Disney movie. No, this is not the Olympics. Putting all of those things aside and focusing on the basic game itself into seeing how to perfect the upset provides for an easier read in this article. Quick tangent - how in the hell did Lake Placid ever get a Winter Olympics?
Number One: Home Court Advantage
A few weeks before the 1980, the Russians embarrassed the Americans with a 10-3 win at Madison Square Garden. In the Miracle on Ice, an implausible goal by Mark Johnson at 19:59 of the first period not only gave Team USA a 2-2 tie but also the belief something special might happen that night. That belief quickly spread throughout the building and the crowd of 8,500 suddenly started waving American flags and chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A!!"
When Tech played at Oklahoma on January 26, Oklahoma grabbed a double-digit lead at half and cruised to a 91-67 win. Tech has the advantage of playing at home tonight and a crowd of 15, 000+ screaming "Raider Power" sets the foundation for what could be a fun night. Tech needs to play with confidence, get a break or two and then look for a knockout punch in the second half.
Number Two: Limit the Opposing Teams Best Player
Vladislav Tretiak was regarded as the best goalie in the world in 1980. After giving up that final first period goal to Johnson, USSR Head Coach Viktor Tikhonov panicked and pulled Tretiak in favor of the backup goalie, Vladimir Myshkin. The move backfired and without Tretiak to back them up, the Russians were lost.
Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger is going to make sure Hield plays 35-plus minutes and hoists up at least 20 shots. However, it is possible to limit his attack against Tech. Oklahoma went 1-2 in their last three games where Hield scored 23, 27, and 24 points. The difference in these games was Hield’s efficiency. Digging deeper into the stats, Hield shot 19/49 ( .387%) from the field, significantly below his season average of 51%. How did Hield get his points? He got fat on free throws (25/27). The way to limit Buddy Hield is not allow him to kill you from the free throw line and to make him beat you from the outside.
Number three: Mike Eruzione Moment
In the third period of the Miracle on Ice, with the game tied at three, Mike Eruzione buried one in the back of the net to give the US a 4-3 lead. The US held on to the 4-3 win and history was made. Eruzione displayed great leadership and courage as the team captain. It could not have happened to anyone better.
I think we all pretty much know whom that role fits into on this team. Toddrick Gotcher has emerged as one of the true leaders of this basketball team. The red-shirt senior has seen a lot in five years and it seems like his biggest takeaway has been to embrace the big moment instead of running away. On a young team, that’s an invaluable trait to have and Gotcher undoubtedly knows tonight is another big moment.
Tonight is going to be fun and has a chance to be special. Opportunity is knocking on the door, I hope Tech is brave enough to answer it.