“I thought we played really hard today,” said Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard following a 68-60 loss to No. 2 Baylor. “It’s a disappointed locker room right now, but it’s a locker room that has a lot of pride in it.”
Here are three takeaways from Texas Tech’s loss to Baylor:
Heavyweight defensive battle
The box score does not do justice to the defensive performance displayed in Lubbock.
Headlined by two of the top six defensive teams in the country, both teams combined for 36 turnovers and shot 38.5% from the field.
After giving the ball away just seven times in the win in Austin, Tech has 11 turnovers through the first 20 minutes Saturday. Combined with the eight giveaways the Red Raiders forced themselves, the first half brought more total turnovers, 19, than made field goals, 18.
However, it was not just the turnovers that hindered the offensive flow for both teams. Players were diving for balls, de-possessing hopeful drivers, deflecting passes away, and creating walls at the rim.
Tech eclipsed their season average of 4.2 blocks per game in the first half alone with six, including three from Kevin McCullar. Overall, Tech finished with nine rejections.
The intensity on defense did not subside after the half. Tech came out with more energy than the Bears to turn an eight-point deficit to a one-point lead with 7:14 left in the game.
While the forced turnovers helped the Red Raiders defensively, the 20 turnovers given up offensively handicapped Tech’s ability to score.
“It really wasn’t even about the makes and misses, it was about our turnovers,” said McCullar who had two giveaways on the day. “We had way too many turnovers tonight, and we can’t do that against a good Baylor team.”
McCullar finished with his second career double-double.
Baylor’s crucial stretch
Missed jumper. Offensive rebound. Missed jumper. Offensive rebound. Missed jumper. Offensive rebound. Missed layup. Defensive rebound. Made 3PT jumper.
That’s what the box score read during the beginning of the most crucial stretch of the game.
At the 6:03 mark with Tech down one, Kevin McCullar followed up a missed jump-shot with his own offensive rebound. From there, the Red Raiders would go on to miss three additional field goals from inside the paint, all in the same possession.
The last of which came via a miss by Marcus Santos-Silva. Jared Butler grabbed the defensive rebound, made an outlet pass to Davion Mitchell who knocked down a three-pointer three seconds later.
This marked the beginning of the end for the Red Raiders.
Over the course of the next 2:14, the Bears added an additional trio of three-pointers, two of which by Baylor’s leading scorer Butler, who scored his first point of the game at the 5-minute mark.
By the time Adam Flagler sank his third triple of the game with 3:24 left, Baylor had cracked open a 59-51 lead on the heels of a 13-6 run. The lead marked Baylor’s biggest since 31 seconds into the 2nd half.
“As a team, we know we didn’t play our best, yet we still had a close game with them,” said Santos-Silva. “At the end of the game, I gave Butler two threes at one point. They were up by eight, take away those two three’s, it’s a two-point game. For us, this one hurts.”
Chris Beard often analogizes the Big 12 to an 18-round boxing match, alluding to the 18 games on the conference schedule.
At times, it feels like a boxing match.
The Big 12 currently has half of its ten teams ranked in the AP top 15.
Oklahoma State sits nine spots outside of the top 25 but should move into the rankings after a 1-0 week, courtesy of a win over No. 6 Kansas.
If the Cowboys do crack the top 25 on Monday, that puts 60% of the conference in the poll, which for Texas Tech means ten of their 18 games could possibly be against ranked foes.
Two familiar Big 12 teams, Baylor and Texas, currently have at least a top-four ranking next to their name while an additional team, Kansas, is two weeks removed from being a top-five team, themselves.
All in all, the Red Raiders have faced four teams, three in conference play, who have graced the top five mark this season.
Beard believes his team is as poised as any to go pound-for-pound in the Big 12.
“I think what I learned is what I already knew: we can play with these teams,” Beard said. “We can beat these teams. What we have to do is continue to get better. That sounds real simple to talk about, but it’s the journey, man.”
“I think our team definitely got better these last few weeks, where we were able to put a 3-1 record on the table in the Big 12. It’s hard to do. If we go 3-1 again, we will be in the fight the last couple weeks of the season.”