The Texas Tech basketball team improved to 3-1 after defeating the Texas Southern Tigers 80-71 in the first round of the Progressive Legends Classic on Monday night in the United Spirit Arena.
The Tigers are the defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champion and went 16-2 in conference play last year.
The first two points of the game were a two-handed jam by junior forward Jordan Tolbert and the game ended the same way with a dunk by senior forward Jaye Crockett.
Crockett, who led the team offensively with a season-high 21 points, said the team was well prepared.
“We know we’re coming into a big tournament,” he said. “This was the first game, so we just have to have that energy every night. It really doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you have to just be ready for the big games.”
This is the Red Raiders’ second appearance in the event as Tech played in the 2008 edition of the tournament, finishing third with a 3-1 record, according to the release.
Tech coach Tubby Smith said he likes how Crockett’s actions wear off on him.
“He’s a clutch player,” he said. “What I like is his demeanor. He’s a veteran senior player and that’s what we expect of him. He’s a very calming influence on me. I know I can count on Jaye doing the right things and that’s what I appreciate about him.”
The Red Raiders planned to stop the Tigers center, Aaric Murray, who averaged 24.3 points per game prior to Monday, but Murray was a non-factor in the game, playing just seven minutes and scoring eight points.
Murray was in foul trouble early in the first half and fouled out of the game with 2:02 left to play.
Texas Southern coach Mike Davis said not being able to play Murray throughout the game hurt his team’s chances of winning.
“He’s our best player,” he said. “We go inside, we play inside with him, so he creates opportunities for other guys. When he gets the basketball, they double. Every team we’ve played this year has doubled him. He only played twenty minutes, so that’s a big blow to us.”
Monday’s matchup was the first ever for the two schools, although the two head coaches squared off for the seventh time in their careers.
Smith is 6-1 overall against Texas Southern coach Mike Davis, five of the wins coming when Smith was in charge at Kentucky and Davis at Indiana.
Davis said he has the utmost respect for his opponent.
“Coach Smith is great,” he said. “His team, they play really hard. We knew it was going to be a physical game. They’re getting better, tonight was probably their best game. He’s a great coach, one of the best coaches in the business.”
During his early years at Indiana, Davis was an assistant under former Tech coach Bob Knight before he took the reins in 2000, according to the Texas Southern athletics website.
He had his best season at Indiana in 2002, taking the Hoosiers to the National Championship game before losing to Maryland.
Smith returns the accolades and said Davis has had great longevity as a coach.
“He’s been around and he’s an outstanding coach,” he said. “He was a pretty young guy when he took over at Indiana. Jobs of that caliber, the microscope is on you all the time and he handled it well.
“I think he’s found a pretty good niche there at Texas Southern. They won their league last year and will probably win it again this year.”
Tech had four players with double-digit points and tied a school record with 12 blocks, which got the fans in the USA off their feet.
Smith said it was nice to hear the crowd get into the game and expects attendance to improve throughout the season because of the potential of this year’s team.
“That was excellent,” he said. “We need more, but that’s a start. I think that people will see that this team will play hard every game. I’m so pleased with how hard they’ve been working and it’s showing on the basketball court.”
Tech will continue the tournament at 7 p.m. Thursday as they host South Dakota State in the United Spirit Arena.