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Chris Beard tried to downplay it, but Texas Tech body slams Texas in coach’s trip back

Tech’s McCullar had a team-high 19 points: ‘It was definitely personal for the fan base and different things like that.’

LUBBOCK — Camping out three days before a big game is one thing. Hundreds more Texas Tech students who didn’t have tickets camped out and braved the chilly Hub City nights anyway.

Maybe they could sneak in as part of the overflow crowd, they figured. They simply wanted to be there Tuesday night for what truly became a seminal moment in Red Raiders history.

Texas Tech's Davion Warren dribbles past Devin Askew in the Red Raiders' 77-64 win over the Longhorns on Tuesday in Lubbock. An energetic and loud crowd met former Tech head coach Chris Beard and the Longhorns in the clash.

Yes, Tech fans hate Chris Beard that much. Well, a lot of them, anyway.

“I’m not dumb enough to go wait in that line just to get told no,” Trevor Davis, a sophomore from Mansfield said. 

Texas Tech guard Kevin McCullar drives to the basket between Texas defenders Timmy Allen and Tre Mitchell during the first half of the Red Raiders' 77-64 win Tuesday night at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock.

Would reality match the hype? As far as Texas Tech fans are concerned, it absolutely did. The 14th-ranked Red Raiders crushed Beard’s new team in convincing 77-64 fashion at United Supermarkets Arena.

No. 23 Texas looked timid, sloppy and just not good enough as West Texans had one hell of a cathartic release.

“You know, the thing about this game, with the players and myself, there was a lot of stress and responsibility,” Tech coach Mark Adams said. “All these students camping out, and all during the summer, everybody saying, ‘Beat Texas at home. That’s all that matters.’”

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Texas Tech head coach Mark Adams yells from the sideline during Tuesday night's win over Texas. The game had been hyped into a sellout for Texas coach Chris Beard's first return to Lubbock. “I think a younger team may not have been able to handle that stress and listen to those outside voices,” Adams said.

Adams, who was Beard’s assistant the last five seasons, said that’s all the Red Raiders heard, like an echo. “I think a younger team may not have been able to handle that stress and listen to those outside voices,” he said.

As one might expect, Beard tried to downplay it. “You guys understand that I respect the opponent,” he said. “And I respect the game. So tonight wasn’t about me. Congratulate Texas Tech on a good home win in the Big 12.”

Try telling that to the sold-out crowd of 15,300, an orchestrated chorus that verbally hammered Beard and the Horns (16-6, 5-4 Big 12) all night long. Tech administrators were worried about students throwing things onto the court. All the Red Raiders (17-5, 6-3) did was throw haymakers. 

Kevin McCullar, one of Beard’s recruits at Tech, had 19 points and went 12-for-15 at the free throw line. Kevin Obanor, an Oral Roberts transfer, had 17 points and watched two of his five 3-poitners ricochet in via finely tuned home rims. 

“It was no secret what tonight was going to be,” Texas guard Marcus Carr said. “Coach and everybody on the staff prepared us for what this was.”

Texas players huddle before Tuesday night's game. “I just thought it was a good college basketball game,” Texas coach Chris Beard said. “We wish we would have played better. But it wasn't for the lack of effort. Our guys battled tonight. But the night wasn’t about me.”

Tech jumped out to a quick 19-7 lead. Every bucket triggered an explosion of sound you simply do not hear in January or February. Maybe March. Heck, maybe in November at Jones AT&T Stadium. But not in a random midseason Big 12 basketball game.

Bryson Williams (16 points) took over just before halftime. He scored on a driving layup and then hit a 3-pointer in the right corner. Marcus Santos-Silva, another Beard recruit, scored relatively easy over Tre Mitchell. Mylik Wilson went straight to the rim, almost untouched, and McCullar hit a 3-pointer from the right corner. 

Tech led 43-29 at the break as Texas spent the entire first half shooting jumpers and not initiating much contact. For the third time this season, the Horns went the entire first half without attempting a single free throw.

Beard usually doesn’t go deep into his rotation, but he played 11 Horns in the first half. The coach even sent Avery Benson, who transferred away from Tech, into the fray. Benson got blasted with boos, just like his coach.

Was Beard looking for someone to make a spark? A different personnel combination? “What’s that deal called, all of the above?” Beard said. Not much worked, though.

Things started looking up in the second half as Texas started with a 13-6 spurt. Carr got a sympathy call and got to the free-throw line with 17:02 remaining. He also hit a short jumper and then a 16-footer as Tech went scoreless for just over four minutes.

Texas Tech guard Kevin McCullar drives past Texas guard Marcus Carr during the first half of Tuesday night's Red Raiders victory in Lubbock. Carr led Texas with 18 points.

Texas got within six with 8:44 remaining, but Obanor threw up a 3-pointer that hit a dead spot on the rim and fell in. The Raiders kept pushing, and the two teams were just trading points while the fans were over the moon.

The final nail actually came with 4:35 left. Obanor missed a 3-pointer, and Mitchell got the rebound. But Mitchell watched the ball get stolen away by Davion Warren, who slammed it home in back-breaking fashion. Tech led 66-54, and it was essentially over.

Carr finished with a team-high 18 points, and Courtney Ramey added 12 by hitting four 3-pointers. Christian Bishop (11 points) also finished in double figures. Reduce any of those contributions, and Tech would have won by a landslide.

“It was definitely personal for the fan base and different things like that,” McCullar said. “I know the fans really wanted to beat UT and coach Beard. But we weren’t worried about that. Coach Adams kept us level-headed, and we know we’re trying to compete for a Big 12 championship. So this is another step in the right direction, and we had beaten a really good Texas team.”

For Tech fans, this was ecstasy. Texas fans better get ready to go through all this again at the Erwin Center on Feb. 19. Tech fans have gobbled up most, if not all, of the extra tickets in the return match.

Texas coach Chris Beard yells out to his players during the first half. Beard built Tech into a national power in his five seasons in Lubbock, including a national runner-up season in 2019.

Carr, usually the only player to speak to reporters after losses, couldn’t hide his disappointment.

“Knowing the things were surrounding him and his family and stuff like that,” he said, “I really wanted to lay it on the line for him tonight.”

Twice, Beard complimented the Tech fans and commended the student section for its energy. 

“I just thought it was a good college basketball game,” the Texas coach said. “We wish we would have played better. But it wasn't for the lack of effort. Our guys battled tonight. But the night wasn’t about me.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.