With the basketball season progressing, the Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-0, 0-0) face a potentially tough opponent at 7 p.m. this Saturday in the United Spirit Arena: the No. 9 team in the country, the Arizona Wildcats (4-0, 0-0).
The team is preparing the same way they do for every game, Tech coach Chris Walker said, and they are looking forward to the competition Arizona will bring to Lubbock.
“They are going to bring a lot of size, a lot of athletic ability,” he said. “They have some really good players that will play on the next level one day. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
This will be the first game Arizona will play not on their home court, Walker said, and with four true freshmen on their team, playing on the road can make a difference.
“I think the court will really shrink with a lot of people here. It will be a great atmosphere,” he said. “We are looking forward to playing a team of Arizona’s magnitude. We’re going to be fired up and we’re looking forward to it.”
The fans will make all the difference in this game, junior forward Jaye Crockett said, and he encourages all Tech basketball fans to come out and support the team.
Crockett led the team off the bench against Jackson State on Monday with 20 points and eight rebounds.
“(The game) is a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s a test for us to play at higher competition and just to show people that we can play at this level, and that we’re not, like, the stepchild of the Big 12.”
The chemistry of the team has come together, sophomore forward Jordan Tolbert said, due in part to Crockett’s leadership.
“I like the way he leads,” Tolbert said. “He comes off the bench and gives us a spark.”
Crockett has been playing efficiently, Walker said, and has dramatically helped the team off the bench both offensively and defensively this season.
It will be critical for the team to be strong on defense, Walker said, because he wants the Red Raiders to score on transition and stop the Wildcats from getting to the basket.
He is confident the team’s points will come from strong defense, he said.
With Arizona ranked this season, Walker said, this gives Tech players an opportunity to showcase their talent, especially with the game being aired on ESPN.
The competition Arizona will bring to Lubbock will bring out the best of this Tech team, Tolbert said.
“They probably have the same amount of talent as us,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but we’re preparing for it like it’s just another game. We are going to play Texas Tech basketball.”
Being on ESPN and playing a ranked team is what playing in college is all about, Crockett said, but it is important to remember it is just another game on the schedule.
“These are the types of games we have been preparing ourselves for,” Walker said. “The number nine team coming into our campus is difficult. For us, we’re just going to come out play together, play smart and play with pride. Like I said with Jackson State, it’s the next game on the schedule, and that’s what I feel about Arizona.”