About one hour before the opening tip of yesterday’s Texas Tech basketball game vs. Baylor news came out that the two people killed in a Lubbock car crash on Friday were cousins of Tech’s own Norense Odiase. The team was clearly motivated to come out and support Odiase, and it showed throughout the game.
Baylor came into the game shorthanded, as star guard Makai Mason was a last minute scratch for the game due to a lingering toe injury (sound familiar?), while King McClure missed his third straight game due to injury. The team only played nine players, with only seven being significant members of the rotation.
After a slow start in which the Red Raiders only hit one shot in four minutes, the team was able to rattle off 45 points in the first half. Jarrett Culver led the way with 14 points on 3-5 shooting from three, while Davide Moretti added in two threes of his own. Tariq Owens picked up two consecutive blocks, and Baylor committed a ton of turnovers to offset a great half of shooting from deep. Both teams only hit two shots inside the pain in the first 20 minutes. Tech would lead 45-32 after the first half, which was the fourth consecutive game in which they led by at least ten points at the break.
The second half began with Tech scoring six straight points to extend the lead to 51-32. A brief 12-7 run by Baylor brought the game back within 14 points (58-44), however a Jarrett Culver bucket ignited a 15-5 run that made Beard empty the bench. The bench essentially maintained the lead until the end of the game, where Andrew Sorrells threw up a lob to Avery Benson that completely deflated Baylor’s press and capped off a dominating performance. Beard was absolutely furious with Sorrells, forcing the walk on to personally apologize to Baylor coach Scott Drew.
Culver led the way for the Red Raiders with 18 points on 4-11 shooting, while Davide Moretti added 17 points of his own and shot 4-7 from deep. The bench was huge for Tech, scoring a Big 12 season high 31 points for the team. Baylor was led by Jared Butler and Mario Kegler, who scored 16 and 15 points respectively.
After the game both teams gathered in prayer to mourn the loss of Odiase’s cousins, who were clearly close to him. In the post game press conference Coach Beard indicated Odiase made the decision to play the game, and repeatedly emphasized the toughness and character Norense brings to the table. It was clear how much the situation impacted Beard, as his normally descriptive presser comments were much more short and character-based.
Player of the Game: Jarrett Culver
Culver had yet another spectacular game, putting up 18 points, eight rebounds, and four assists to go along with a steal and block on the defensive end. Culver hit three shots from downtown in the first half and was an instrumental part of the offensive rhythm established in the game.
Texas Tech moves within half a game of the Big 12 lead after their sixth win in seven games. A revenge game against Baylor was necessary to stay in the Big 12 championship fight, and now they set their sights on another revenge game against Kansas. The offense has now scored 78 points in four of the last six Big 12 games after not hitting that mark in the first seven conference games.
Baylor has been essentially knocked out of the Big 12 fight, and will likely have to win two of their remaining games to ensure an NCAA Tournament birth. Having Makai Mason back would be tremendous towards a potential tournament run.