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January 15, 2014

Campaign pays off with 82-72 win

Which will build a program faster? A good team and then strong fan attendance or strong fan attendance and then a good team?

One thing is for sure this season. When Texas Tech men's basketball can draw in 9,000 fans, it's undefeated.

The Red Raiders took down No. 12 Baylor, of all opponents, 82-72 Wednesday at the United Spirit Arena for their first Big 12 win of the 2013-2014 season.

"From warm ups, we went out and saw how packed it was," senior forward Jaye Crockett said. "They just bring energy for us. You know, that's our sixth man on the court with us. It's just great to have them. We need them for the rest of the season to get some big wins."

Before diving into the nuts and bolts of the Red Raiders' biggest win since taking down No. 10 Washington on Dec. 3, 2009, it's important to know what happened earlier in the day.

Tech head coach Tubby Smith bought 135 or more lunches for students at the Student Union Building as he advertised Wednesday's big game on ESPNU.

It was the final touch on a heavy marketing campaign for the showdown against a school that has owned a considerable upper hand in head-to-head athletic challenges for several years.

Word got around, and the United Spirit Arena drew in its largest student crowd in eons. It was a huge makeup of the 9,516 fans in attendance.

"It was suggested by our marketing department," Smith said. "Elvis (Moya) and his crew asked me to and I said, 'Sure. Anytime. I'll be happy to do whatever it takes.' It was cool outside, so there were a bunch of people inside eating.

"I've done it before. I've gone over there two or three times already. Midnight Madness -- I've gone over there. It's a beautiful place, and if I were a student I'd be there a lot. But that was the goal. It's a new season, first day back in class. People are excited, students are excited, they haven't had any exams yet. They needed something good to do and this is a great thing happening."

Baylor scored the first two points of the game on a Kenny Chery jumper 24 seconds into the game. Then Tech (9-8, 1-3) worked its way to an 11-4 run by the first media timeout to a loud ovation.

The Red Raiders beat Baylor on the boards, seven rebounds to one, on the run.

Momentum carried over. Tech led 43-22 by halftime.

Crockett already had 14 of his 19 points while Dejan Kravic, Robert Turner, Toddrick Gotcher and Jordan Tolbert consistently created positive plays. Especially in the paint.

"We were in the locker room, we were pumped up just seeing how they were out there," Crockett said of the crowd. "They came down and we just built off that. We feed off the energy that they give us. Even when you're tired, that crowd is behind you and you just keep on fighting."

Kravic, who finished the game with 14 points and six offensive rebounds for nine total, immediately interjected.

"We were also motivated because Jaye actually showed us before the game the box score of last year's game here versus Baylor," he said. "He printed it off and circled that score. It was 82-48 for them. That kind of got us pumped up, too. Then just seeing the crowd that energetic got us going even more."

Baylor struggled to close the gap. The Red Raiders still had an 18-point lead exactly halfway through the second frame.

Then the Bears finally began to cut the lead. But they never got within 10 in a two-lead change game that saw the Red Raiders begin to hold shots to the 10-second mark on the shot clock in the final eight minutes.

It was a deserved win. Baylor's Chery said it was like going up against a group of players that somehow knew Wednesday's game would be their last.

Tech bested Baylor in shooting percentage by about 16 percent, outrebounded the Bears and recorded 15 assists to nine turnovers.

The Red Raiders also drew 29 free throws and hit five more of those shots than Baylor, 21 made points from the charity stripe.

Crockett, Gotcher, Kravic, Turner and Tolbert all scored in double digits. All five started the game.

"I might be broke before the year is over," Smith said, laughing. "I spent a lot of money. If that's what it takes, we'll be feeding a lot of students."


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