Unbeaten and off to its best start in 80 years, Texas Tech had good reason to enjoy its lengthy break.
The No. 16 Red Raiders will be tested quickly in its first game back, though, as they visit Wichita State, which is looking to win its eighth straight Saturday.
Texas Tech (9-0) hasn’t played since an 80-70 win at TCU on Dec. 8 in which it rallied from a 14-point deficit to extend the team’s best start since opening 12-0 in 1929-30.
The Red Raiders, who have reached 80 points four times this season, are hoping the layoff will help as they begin a tough stretch in their schedule. After visiting Wichita State (9-1), Texas Tech travels to No. 19 New Mexico next week. The Red Raiders will open Big 12 conference play at Oklahoma State, which is 9-1, on Jan. 9.
Coach Pat Knight predicts the Big 12—featuring No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Texas—will be one of the nation’s toughest conferences.
“We shouldn’t be sitting there on Selection Sunday worried if we’re going to get six teams in,” Knight said. “I think hands down you can really argue this is the best league in the country.”
Knight and the Red Raiders will first be looking to hold off a Wichita State team that is looking for a measure of revenge after Texas Tech pulled off a 72-69 victory last season on Mike Singletary’s 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds remaining.
“It’s been in our heads since last year,” Shockers forward J.T. Durley said last week. “We felt we could have won that game.”
The Red Raiders will be looking to avoid falling into an early deficit Saturday like they did against the Frogs. Despite shooting 50 percent in the first half, they did not take their first lead until there was 16:09 to play.
John Roberson scored 21 points and D’Walyn Roberts had a career-high 19 rebounds - the most by a Texas Tech player since Andy Ellis grabbed 20 in a game against Prairie View A&M in 2000.
“(Knight) got into us, ripped us a little bit, told us to play defense,” said Roberson, who is averaging 20.7 points and shooting 55.9 percent in the last three games. “He said, what do you want to do those (10) days, practice all day or have a little time off.”
Wichita State, meanwhile, is looking to improve to 10-1 for the first time since 2004-05. The Shockers also faced TCU in their last game, leading from start to finish in an 80-68 victory.
Durley scored 19 points and added six rebounds while Toure’ Murry finished with 17 points.
Wichita State limited TCU to 30.4 percent shooting in the first half, extending its season-long strength defensively. The Shockers are seventh in scoring defense in Division I, giving up 55.3 points per game, and their last six opponents have shot a combined 35.2 percent while averaging 18.2 turnovers.
All of Wichita State’s wins have been by double-digits. It’s looking to win eight in a row for the first time since opening the 2006-07 season with nine straight wins.
The Shockers are hosting their first ranked, non-conference opponent since a 71-48 loss to then-No. 21 Mississippi on Dec. 13, 1997. They’ve lost their last three overall against Top 25-opponents.
Texas Tech’s win last season was its first in three all-time meetings versus the Shockers.