The Texas Tech men’s basketball team lost its final regular season game of the season 66-62 to No. 1 Kansas on Saturday. The Red Raiders finished the regular season with an 18-13 (9-9 Big 12) record and will begin post season play on Wednesday for the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championships.
The Red Raiders went 13-4 at home this season, which is a down year compared to the last two seasons. Tech was 34-2 at home combined over the last two years. Tech had three home losses in the 2016-17 season, which was coach Chris Beard’s first season coaching Tech.
This is Beard’s first season with four home game losses in a season since getting to Lubbock. This season’s team has been by far the youngest, with three to four and sometimes even five freshmen on the court at once.
A large part of Tech’s success in the United Supermarkets Arena is the crowd. The students, season-ticket holders and fans have made their presence felt at every game. According to big12sports.com, Tech has the second most fans in its arena on a regular basis behind Kansas. A total of 223,864 fans have been to Red Raider home games with an average of 13,991 fans per game.
The USA seats 15,098 people, according to unitedsupermarketsarena.com, which means every home game this season has been filled almost to capacity.
After the Jan. 25 matchup against Kentucky, which ended in a 76-74 overtime win by the Wildcats, coach John Calipari had nothing but praise and respect for the fans in the USA.
“(The environment) was great. (The team and I) drove by the tents last night, I wanted them to see that they bring out the best people. Here they come,” Calipari said. “Let me say this, I’ve been all different kinds of arenas, this was a classy crowd. I’ve been to arenas where I didn’t want to take my team back, it’s disgusting. Why should I do that and help another program if you gotta walk in and it’s just disgusting.”
Calipari continued his praise for the crowd and mentioned that the experience of playing in the USA was unique compared to other places in the country.
“That was a classy crowd. They were all over it for their team, they didn’t care about us, that’s how our crowd is,” Calipari said. “That’s the way this should be… and this is a great place. I see they’re building a practice facility, this is an unbelievable arena, the job that Chris (Beard) has done. They play different. (Beard) bought in and got kids to buy in and the way they play is really hard to play against. This was a terrific win, and you’re right we get a lot of these (type of games) but this kinda unique and special.”
Kentucky, Texas and Baylor are the teams that have beat the Red Raiders at home. After Texas’s 68-58 win over Tech, coach Shaka Smart said the crowd in the USA made its presence known and impact felt in the game.
“This crowd is unbelievable here. The reality is anytime you go on the road and you’re dealing with a hostile crowd, their interests are different than your interests, so there’s gonna be some going at each other,” Smart said. “I told our guys, ‘We are going to play this game against Texas Tech’s team and their crowd is going to do everything they can to insert themselves in the game,’ and they did a great job of that. We just try to have a level of energy as a coaching staff that our guys can feed off and we feed off them.”
Texas’s leading scorer in that game was sophomore guard Andrew Jones. Jones, like Smart, said this was one of the best atmospheres in the country.
“This is a great atmosphere. I think one of the best in country, maybe even the league. Their fans really get into it and regardless of the small play, airball, turnover or a shot for them, they go crazy,” Jones said.
Beard said this has been the best crowd in Tech basketball history after Saturday’s loss to Kansas and he is very appreciative of their support this season.
“I just want to thank the crowd, not only tonight but all year long. This is the best year in Texas Tech basketball history in terms of the attendance, it’s not even close. We really made strides even from last year’s championship season. Students coming, appreciate all the people on campus and in the community and in the student body for coming and supporting the team,” Beard said. “Big, big time thank you for our students, our season ticket holders and just our community and all the people.”