KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Texas Tech coach Mark Adams walked through the handshake line after a 72-41 blowout of Iowa State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament, then pulled aside Cyclones coach T.J. Otzelberger to whisper a couple of kind words.
“I told T.J. we probably couldn’t have played better than we did tonight,” Adams said Thursday night.
On both ends of the floor.
Terrence Shannon Jr. led the way on offense, while Kevin McCullar returned from an injury to contribute 11 points and Adonis Arms and Kevin Obanor scored 10 apiece. And on defense, the No. 14 Red Raiders forced the sloppy Cyclones into committing 20 turnovers and a 5-for-25 night from beyond the 3-point arc.
Not surprisingly, the Red Raiders led 39-20 at halftime and cruised the rest of the way into a showdown with No. 7 seed Oklahoma on Friday night. The Sooners upset third-ranked Baylor 72-67 earlier in the night.
“We just watched Oklahoma beat Baylor and I feel like that fueled us more,” Shannon said, “and we also saw that Texas had a 20-point lead and blew it, so we knew any team could win today. We did our best to come out strong.”
They Cyclones (20-12), who started the season 12-0 and beat the Red Raiders in early January, are now left to sweat out Selection Sunday. They didn’t do themselves any favors with a dismal performance Thursday night.
“They played great. Very well prepared for that game,” Otzelberger said, “and on our end of things, that was completely unacceptable. … Not our proudest moment and unacceptable effort. We’ve just got to be better.”
Tyrese Hunter led the Cyclones with nine points, though he also had seven turnovers. All-Big 12 guard Izaiah Brockington scored seven but was just 3 of 16 from the field and 1 of 6 from the 3-point line.
“We have to leave this game behind us,” Hunter said. “It’s a quick turnaround. Put it behind us and look to the next game.”
Texas Tech is one of the most experienced teams in the country, starting a junior alongside four seniors, and it showed from the very first minute, when the Red Raiders ran crisp half-court offense that produced easy inside buckets.
The difference came when Texas Tech got into transition, though.
Whether it was off a long 3-point miss – Iowa State was 3 of 15 from the arc in the first half – or off one of the 10 turnovers from the normally sure-handed Cyclones, the Red Raiders swiftly raced down court for uncontested layups.
They led 39-20 at halftime, and that was largely due to a 12-0 advantage on fast breaks.
The lead could have been bigger, too. Texas Tech got possession when Iowa State’s Caleb Grill stepped out of bounds with 1.2 seconds left. After an inbound pass the ball went to Arms, whose shot from beyond the midcourt line rattled through the basket, only to be waved off after a video review showed it left his hands a split-second late.
“I thought it was good,” Shannon said with a grin.
Not that those three points mattered in the grand scheme of things.
The Red Raiders had the game firmly in hand.
Besides, they scored the first nine points of the second half anyway, while Iowa State continued to throw the ball away to prevent any sort of comeback in a tournament where the Cyclones have been tough to beat over the years.
“Just extremely pleased,” Adams said. “I thought we played one of the best 40 minutes we’ve played all year. Our guys were ready to play. I’m certainly proud of their effort, especially on defense. I thought we made a statement that we’re a great defensive team and I was proud of that.”
Iowa State’s remarkable 18-win improvement over last season is sure to impress the NCAA selection committee. So should wins over over Xavier, Memphis and Iowa out of conference play and the Red Raiders and Texas in the Big 12.
Texas Tech went 18-0 at home this season under Adams, the Big 12 coach of the year. But the Red Raiders were just 5-8 away from home, leaving questions about how they would perform in the Big 12 and NCAA tourneys. Well, they answered any doubters with their performance against the Cyclones on Thursday night.
The Red Raiders play the Sooners on Friday night for a spot in the championship game. They split two meetings earlier this season with Oklahoma winning in a rout in Norman and Texas Tech returning the favor in Lubbock.