AMES — The rarely-seen version of Texas Tech that played with energy and confidence in a shocking 78-73 win over Iowa State less than two weeks ago finally made another appearance.
Fortunately for the No. 11 Cyclones, that Red Raiders team showed up to trounce Marcus Foster-less Kansas State Wednesday night — making a repeat performance in Saturday’s 1 p.m. rematch at Hilton Coliseum highly doubtful for a variety of reasons.
“I’m just glad we get to play them twice,” ISU forward Georges Niang said. “In (a lot of) other league, someone kicks your butt and you never see them again. So I’m just glad we get a chance to play them again and really show who we really are. I think down in Lubbock really wasn’t Cyclones basketball.
ISU (16-5, 6-3) fell short of that cardinal and gold standard in Monday’s 89-76 loss at Kansas, too, but there’s no shame in simply losing to the No. 9 Jayhawks, who own a two-game lead over the Cyclones and West Virginia in the Big 12 standings.
It’s how it happened that miffed ISU’s players. The Cyclones lost 14 turnovers, with nine coming in a first half that Kansas closed out with a 24-10 flourish.
“That’s stuff you can control,” said Niang, who scored 24 points in the loss. “Those are mental mistakes that we need to stay away from.”
A similar mood — and diagnosis — formed in the aftermath of the Tech loss. At the time, the Red Raiders (12-11, 2-8) had managed nary a win in league play, but hot 3-point shooting and controlling the pace put the disheveled Cyclones down 19 points in the first half.
A full-court press-based comeback ensued, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the most damaging loss on ISU’s otherwise sterling resume.
“We call it kind of a payback game,” Cyclone point guard Monté Morris said. “We’ve just got to try to speed them up a little bit.”
That’s not easy to do when Tech’s both dictating the tempo and hitting shots. It’s also rare that those two factors coincide.
According to KenPom.com, the Red Raiders rank 272nd in adjusted tempo (63.3), while languishing at 289th in effective field goal percentage (45.5).
Against both the Cyclones and Wildcats, somehow, Tech bucked those dismal trends — in part because they were allowed to build confidence early in the game by knocking down 3-pointers.
"There’s no easy game in the Big 12, that’s for sure," Niang said. "The way they played last night shows that.”
The Red Raiders drilled a season high-tying 11 against ISU in Lubbock and sank nine against Kansas State on their home court. The similarities between the pair of outlier games are eerie, with one glaring disparity: Tech finished strong in its latest win instead of merely hanging on.
“I thought they had great energy and they went out and obviously knocked down shots,” said Cyclone coach Fred Hoiberg, whose team seeks to run its Hilton win streak to 20. “They played really poised and they made all the plays down the stretch. I think they finished that game on a 19-3 run, so just a really impressive overall performance by Texas Tech. It reminded me, actually, a lot of our game. They were the aggressors in that game for 40 minutes and the team that does that usually wins.”