Some coaches will urge their players to immediately discard a game from their minds following a bad loss. If Texas head coach Shaka Smart believes in that mantra, Monday night will certainly qualify for his team.
In front of a boisterous crowd on senior night in Lubbock, Texas Tech smothered the Longhorns and cruised to a 70-51 victory, marking Texas’ most lopsided margin of defeat this season.
“You have to give Texas Tech a lot of credit for the unbelievable defensive energy they played with,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said during a postgame radio interview with the Longhorn IMG Radio Network. “They’re already a phenomenal defensive team, but the level of energy they played with was what you should have on senior night.”
The separation started on the offensive end for Texas, where it couldn’t find its rhythm against the Red Raiders.
There was no motion in half-court sets. No easy transition buckets. No layups at the basket. And the Red Raiders completely removed the Longhorns’ big men from the game.
As a result, Texas scored a season-low 51 points and shot a season-low 30 percent from the field.
“When we got in the paint, we didn’t make those shots,” Smart said. “There were other plays we didn’t get the movement we needed to get, and they did a good job of bottling us up.”
In the first half, the Longhorns’ offense struggled mightily against a Texas Tech defense that ranks as the third best in all of college basketball in points per game. Texas managed only nine points through the first 13 minutes and failed to create shots for their hottest shooter — guard Jase Febres — who only had three shot attempts in the first half.
Texas scored only 23 first-half points and shot 30 percent from the field, a season-low for a single period.
While the Red Raiders struggled similarly on the offensive end to start, they caught fire midway through the period. Texas Tech went on a 19-6 run during an eight-minute stretch that gifted it complete control of the game. The Tech lead grew to as high as 15 points, but a short Texas run capped by an Elijah Mitrou-Long three cut the lead to nine before halftime.
The Longhorns’ woes, however, persisted in the second half. Any halftime adjustments didn’t amount to significant change, with Texas again meeting difficulties in finding open shots. Most of the second half consisted solely of Longhorn players driving to the basket one-on-one and chunking up a contested shot.
But the Red Raiders finally found their groove on the offensive end. They made seven threes in the period and did what Texas couldn’t by finding open men and making difficult shots.
Texas Tech guard Matt Mooney bailed out the offense with great shots despite having a defender in his face. Fellow Red Raider guard Jarrett Culver added 12 points of his own, recording a team-high 16 points on the night. The two led a Red Raider effort in the second half that pushed the game out of reach.
Now, with only one game left on the schedule and its tournament hopes dwindling, Texas must hope it can beat TCU on Saturday. After a tumultuous season, the Longhorns will have to put together one final strong performance for a chance to make the NCAA Tournament.
“I told the guys in the locker room that this is how your senior day is supposed to go, like Texas Tech experienced tonight,” Smart said. “What goes into that is getting back on the practice floor, working on a variety of areas where we have continued to move forward, but where tonight we weren’t at our best.”