‘Wherever we go, that’s what it is’: Texas should be ready for anything after Lubbock trip
Carr on future Big 12 road trips: ‘Kind of expecting to get that everywhere we go.’
LUBBOCK — Hayden Wells and six of her Texas Tech friends were at the front of the line Tuesday at United Supermarkets Arena. They couldn’t wait to throw verbal bombs at the Texas coach. And they came loaded for bear.
“This is the first time Chris Beard is coming back since betraying all of the students and just leaving,” Wells said.
Betraying Texas Tech? Because Beard changed jobs and went to his alma mater?
“He was talking about how much we meant to him and how much Tech meant to him,” she said. “And the next day, he got on a plane and left.”
From Texas’ standpoint, the 77-64 loss in Lubbock was something of a one-off. There’s not another Big 12 venue that’ll have the same energy, nowhere near the same vitriol. That includes Kansas, where fans sure root hard for the Jayhawks but don’t necessarily go after the opposing coach.
Should that bring any solace for No. 23 Texas? The Longhorns (16-6, 5-4 Big 12) still have the toughest remaining Division I schedule, according to ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index. Nine regular-season games are left. It could be nine rounds of “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!” — uppercuts and body blows galore.
“This was the ninth game in the 18-round fight,” Beard said after Tech rolled to the win. “So we make the turn here early February.”
Texas fans don’t want to relive it, much less read about it. But Tuesday night was exactly the atmosphere Beard is desperate to create in Austin. He spent five years turbocharging the Red Raiders' fan base. Texas Tech coach Mark Adams, Beard’s assistant for those five seasons, is the agreeable beneficiary.
“Our fans, they were maybe better than our players were,” Adams said. “It was such an awesome environment. I don't think I’ve ever experienced anything like that before.”
The matchup had students camping out three nights ahead of a midweek game in the middle of winter. Just think about that alone for a second. Thousands of students were lined up the length of the adjacent recreational football field. When they got inside, just about every one put on a black “West Texas Tough” shirt, giving the arena a blacked-out appearance.
First-year football coach Joey McGuire proved himself an excellent hype man.
“I gotta hear you!! RAIDER!!” McGuire yelled.
“POWER!!” fans responded in unison.
“All that matters tonight is the what? Say it! All that matters tonight is THE WIN,” McGuire bellowed. “You wanna have fun with your boys being loud, going crazy. Nothing goes on the court; are you with me?
“One more time. RAIDER!!”
A local lawyer nicknamed “The Gorilla” paid for “Nature Boy” Ric Flair to come get fans lathered up, too. Flair turns 73 this month, but his feather boa game is still strong.
“WHOOOOOO!” the wrestling legend screamed in his trademark fashion.
“If you can beat Baylor,” Flair told the sold-out arena full of 15,300 fans, “you can walk on Texas!"
The music selection was pitch-perfect, everything from George Strait’s “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” to Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
During a timeout, a Tech student was brought onto the floor for a karaoke contest. But really the whole point was for her to belt out a key line from one of Olivia Rodrigo’s biggest hits: “And you’re still a traitor!”
One of the best pops came from a sign shown on the videoboard. “Adams Didn’t Get On The Plane.”
Longtime public address announcer and Lubbock radio icon Rick Gilbert said he wouldn’t get “too crazy.” In fact, the students and the music were so loud, you barely noticed how quick Texas players were introduced before the game.
“You’ve got Chris Beard, you’ve got everything going for him here, and he leaves and goes to Texas. Upset a lot of folks,” Gilbert said beforehand. “You can understand, it’s his alma mater. But it still kind of hurt.
“It’s been a hyped-up game for a long, long time,” Gilbert added.
Texas guard Marcus Carr, a Minnesota transfer, was one of several new players who probably had wide-eyed looks. When Texas' team bus arrived for the shoot-around, Tech students surrounded the loading dock.
UT forward Brock Cunningham, a local boy and longtime Longhorns fan, walked out into the loading dock area, waved his arms and smiled with this “bring it on, baby” vibe. Of course, he’s from Westlake; he loves Hater-ade.
“From day one when I spoke to Coach and when I got on campus, he did a great job explaining to me this is Texas and we’re the most hated school not only in the Big 12, but probably in the country,” Carr said after the game. “So wherever we go, that’s what it is. We were expecting this. It wasn't nothing new to us. Kind of expecting to get that everywhere we go.”
And that’s just it. Texas will face some kind of backlash at Baylor (Feb. 12), definitely at Oklahoma (Feb. 15), West Virginia (Feb. 26) and Kansas (March 5). All but the Sooners were left in limbo last summer when the Horns announced a move to the SEC.
The idea of Big 12 dissolution legitimately scared those fan bases and school administrators. Once the Big 12 stabilized by inviting four new members, that fear passed. But don’t think they forgot that sinking feeling.
Texas’ remaining nine games are hard enough as it is. On Saturday, UT will host No. 20 Iowa State (16-6, 3-6). The Cyclones have already beaten the Horns once this season in Ames. Then it’s a quick turnaround as Texas hosts No. 10 Kansas on Monday.
Two home games should help the Horns wash away the lingering memories of Tuesday night. But then it will be two road games in Waco and Norman, Okla. There are simply no easy nights in the Big 12.
If Beard has said anything that truly resonates, it’s this: “Just stay the course.”