LUBBOCK — Texas Tech fans have been cooped up for days since a massive snow storm dumped almost 12 inches on the Hub City.
One homeless man froze to death, 30 injuries were reported, and the roof caved in near Dillard’s at the South Plains Mall, although Texas legend Jody Conradt won’t have any problem with that one.
A rowdy crowd of 12,491 showed up Saturday to see two teams shoveling their way through various issues. Tech plowed through United Supermarkets Arena and captured an 82-74 win over Texas, a team stuck in a drift that’s covered up Cam Ridley’s broken foot.
If the Big 12 opener was indicative of how the Longhorns (8-5) will play without their standout center, then best snuggle up. It could be a long winter.
“You can’t give a team 82 points and expect to win on the road,” a dejected Shaka Smart said after the coach’s first trip to West Texas.
Despite Isaiah Taylor scoring a career-high 35 points, the Longhorns lost their Big 12 opener mainly because they haven’t figured out how cover for Ridley’s absence. Javan Felix (13 points) was the only other player to finish in double figures.
“We know that Cam being out, it doesn’t make anybody’s role bigger,” said Taylor, who also went 13 for 14 from the foul line. “It makes our margin for error smaller.”
Four Tech players went wild, including Toddrick Gotcher, who sank four 3-pointers. One of those came practically from the South Loop. Gotcher’s fadeaway with 2 minutes, 18 seconds left made it a nine-point game. Then Devaugntah Williams (23 points) got behind the UT defense for an easy run-out, and it was over.
The Red Raiders (11-1) shot 50 percent overall and finished a staggering 27 for 30 from the free-throw line. It was Tech’s first win in a Big 12 home opener since 2008.
“I feel good, but it’s only one game,” said Tech coach Tubby Smith, who oversees a squad that’s now won 10 straight. “Got a long season ahead of us and a lot of talented players and teams ahead of us.”
The players trickling out of the visitors’ locker room had the look of pure puzzlement.
“Right now, we’re just searching for a style of play since we kind of got comfortable with Cam and how things were flowing,” said Ridley’s replacement, Prince Ibeh.
The senior center had 10 rebounds but no points. On most of his offensive rebounds, Ibeh oddly threw it back outside instead of going up strong for potential dunks. He said he thought it was better to throw it outside and get quick 3s, considering the score.
“We just have to focus on not coming out so flat and digging ourselves a hole,” Ibeh added. “That’s the most important thing, being on edge early.”
The first half was easily the worst 20-minute stretch of Texas’ entire season.
The Horns shot 28.6 percent, mostly by going 5 for 16 from 3-point range. Six players committed two fouls each as UT piled up 13 in the period. Ibeh and Kerwin Roach both lost the ball at different times. Connor Lammert and Taylor got crossed up getting the ball inbounds after a Tech bucket for another turnover.
Gotcher hit two 3-pointers early in the second half to give Tech a 15-point advantage. Then Taylor took over, just as he did in the second half of the Washington opener. He scored 28 of his total after the break. Tevin Mack’s 3-pointer made it a seven-point game with 10:38 left. But Texas simply couldn’t close the gap.
Ridley isn’t expected back until late February at the earliest. There are at least a dozen more Big 12 games until then.
“We have to play like we’re the underdogs,” Taylor said. “We have the talent to beat a lot of good teams. We’ve done it already this season before. We just have to put it together.”