Texas Tech off to a rough start in Big 12 play


With Tuesday’s humiliating 84-50 loss in Ames, it became readily apparent that this may be the worst Texas Tech basketball team in some time. With the loss, Texas Tech fell to 0-4 in Conference play and is tied with West Virginia at the rock bottom of the conference standings. It is mid-January and this Texas Tech team doesn’t have a single Quad One or Two win and isn’t even in the bubble conversation.

What’s more concerning than Tech’s record is the complete lack of effort they showed, and I’m not just talking about the players. Tuesday night may have been the worst display a Texas Tech team put on since Tubby Smith was hired in 2013. After all, this was their worst loss since 2015, and for the talent this roster has, it’s just flat-out unacceptable. Something needs to change quickly, or this team will be lucky to even make the NIT.
 
A big problem for this team, and one that has plagued Tech for years, is that they had an extremely easy non-conference. Now this one wasn’t as intentional as others, they did play in the Maui Invitational, and had a guaranteed Big 12-Big East Showdown. However, in Maui, they lost to a then top 10 Creighton team, that has since fallen to 9-8, and Ohio State who’s decent. But their two wins against Power Six programs are against programs that used to be giants and have since fallen apart in Louisville and Georgetown. Louisville currently sits at 2-14, and Georgetown has gone years without winning a Big East game. That means between November 23rd and December 31st, Texas Tech didn’t play a single Quad one game, before playing in the toughest conference in the nation.

Now just because Texas Tech played lower-level teams for over a month doesn’t mean there weren’t issues with them. Against Georgetown, they gave up an over 20-point lead to let them get within one before Pop Isaacs hit a shot to end Georgetown’s run. Against both Eastern Washington and Nicholls State, Texas Tech struggled mightily, even trailing late in one of them before escaping with wins in both. Between this and their next game rumors and credible reports stated that Fardaws Aimaq had entered the transfer portal. Now, these reports were discredited the next day when it was announced he was staying, whether he ever gets a minute in Lubbock remains a major question, but the rumors that he was intent on transferring still persist in Lubbock, and Texas Tech message boards.

When Fardaws announced he was transferring rumors swirled across Texas Tech fans, mainly about the relationship between coaches and players. To be clear none of the rumors of locker room issues were ever credibly reported on, and Texas Tech bounced back in a major fashion. While their offense had been widely criticized up until that point, Tech responded with three blowout wins scoring triple digits, and muting all concerns. While the opposition wasn’t good it was a big boost to see that when Tech came under major criticism they were able to respond the way they did.
 
The doubters would be quiet once Big 12 play started as well, as Texas Tech roared to a 37-26 lead over TCU on the road at the half. Well, the doubters would be quiet for 20 minutes at least, as what followed was one of the worst halves Texas Tech had played in the last five years. Texas Tech would be outscored 41-24 in the second half, en route to a 67-61 defeat. On the day Texas Tech only gave up two threes, turned the ball over 23 times, and shot just 50% from the free throw stripe. But most concerning for them was that they were torched in the middle of the court, something like that happening to Tech teams with Mark Adams on staff used to be unthinkable.

Now there’s no shame in losing on the road to TCU, especially this TCU team, but it was a missed opportunity to snag a Big 12 road win, something that doesn’t come easy. The concerning thing for Tech was that their next game was against Kansas, and to Tech’s credit they fought throughout, overcoming multiple seemingly untenable deficits. But with just a second to go Texas Tech found themselves with the ball and down just one, on the final play Daniel Batcho was drug down, and Pop Isaacs would come into contact with a Kansas player and hit the deck. No whistles were blown, Pop Isaacs would sustain a head injury, and Batcho would attempt to chase down the Kansas player and sustain a finger injury. Texas Tech fell by three, and both Batcho and Isaacs would miss their seemingly must-win home game against Oklahoma.

The first half would be a mixed bag for Texas Tech, but in the second half Oklahoma would take a double-digit lead, and Tech looked finished. Then it all turned, Tanner Groves fouled out with about five minutes to go and De’Vion Harmon took over for Tech, as they stormed back to take a two-point lead with seconds remaining. It wasn’t to be, however, as OU called a timeout. The Sooners called up a good play and got by Williams (who had played well) for a layup to tie it, with 10 seconds left Tech called a timeout. Many Tech fans hoped Steve Green would draw up an inbounds play for Harmon or Obanor to give Tech the win, but that didn’t happen. Instead in a tied game Texas Tech gave it to Jaylon Tyson for a corner three with five seconds left, who as talented and high potential as he is, was 0 for 4 from three on the night. He missed and Oklahoma would win it in overtime.
 
It looked bad for Tech after starting out 0-3 in Big 12 play, they were quickly falling off the bubble and looking at a shorthanded road trip to Ames to take on a very good Iowa State team. There was hope though, as the year before Tech was down to seven scholarship players and only lost by four in Ames. Then all of a sudden hope grew when it was announced Batcho and Isaacs were not just playing but starting. 

What came after can only be described as one of the worst and ugliest performances a Texas Tech team has put out in a long, long time. They were beaten to a pulp falling 84-50, and it quite frankly looked like neither the coaches or players were interested in the game. So much so that Norense Odiase even commented that no matter what you can’t quit playing or coaching. In the postgame, Mark Adams called it a wake-up call…A wake-up call? 0 and 3 wasn’t the wake-up call? Nearly losing to Georgetown, Eastern Washington, and Nicholls State wasn’t a wake-up call? This game was no wake-up call, it was the “sky falling” time for Tech fans. Now, this wasn’t the Tech team that fought hard against Kansas and Oklahoma to come from behind in both, but a 34-point loss, even against a very good Iowa State team is unacceptable. 

The most frustrating thing is these players and coaches have been given everything. They have one of the nicest arenas in the Big 12, one of the best practice facilities in that country, and some of the best fans in the country. This is a team that has been to three Sweet Sixteens, two Elite Eights, and a Final Four in the past four tournaments. Texas Tech has had multiple first-round draft picks in the last five years, and has won the Big 12. Texas Tech has been called a “new blue blood”. Their coach got his dream job, and an expensive extension in year one. This is a team that has been given everything and is on the verge of squandering it in a way that doesn’t see them play any more postseason basketball than a Wednesday night game in Kansas City.

Quite frankly I don’t know what these guys’ dynamics are in the locker room or away from the game. Each one of these guys has to return to Lubbock and walk around amongst the fans, while the fans remember what these guys did this year. This program has come too far to be derailed, these players have worked too hard their entire lives to flop once they get to this program, and get this opportunity. Someone needs to step up and lead, the talent is there, and the opportunities are still there for these guys. Just ask Kerwin Walton what happened in North Carolina last year. This team is on the brink, what they showed against Iowa State was a joke, but guess what? On Saturday they go to Austin, no Chris Beard isn’t there, but “Texas” will be on their opponent’s chest, and they’re in a desperate situation. It’s time for these guys to step up because if they don’t the conversations in Lubbock will only get uglier. This loss was humiliating, and it’s gut check time for these players. If they step up and pull this off on Saturday, you could see their season turn, even if they lose they have to at least show some fight and belief out there, because what happened Tuesday can’t ever happen again.

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