No. 14 Texas, No. 18 Texas Tech ready for showdown
When the Big 12 Conference came out with its makeup schedule for the final week of the regular season, No. 14 Texas and No. 18 Texas Tech found a better feel for what their stretch run might look like.
Just don't expect either team to overlook their second meeting this season, which will unfold Saturday in Lubbock.
The mood for the two teams figures to be vastly different, although a bounce or two or a made shot could have flipped the script.
Both fought overtime battles the last time out.
The Longhorns rallied from 14 points down to topple No. 17 Kansas 75-72 on Tuesday for their first regular-season sweep of the Jayhawks.
The Red Raiders were on the other end with a 74-69 loss at Oklahoma State on Monday. The Cowboys claimed both games against Texas Tech in OT this season.
Those two outcomes will prove important for seeding at the Big 12 tournament, which could be of the most competitive since the league began in 1996-97.
The Red Raiders (14-8, 6-7 Big 12) tumbled into seventh place with the loss and have work to do to climb out of that spot. If they can't, they would play a game on the first day of the event -- and would need to win four games in four days to emerge as champion.
Texas took a major step forward by staving off Kansas. The Longhorns (14-6, 8-5) stand in fifth place, but they start a stretch Saturday during which they face three teams in their last four games that are sub-.500 in conference play.
Regardless of the records, standings and math to finish a certain place, though, Texas takes a jolt of confidence into its showdown with Texas Tech.
Longhorns coach Shaka Smart said he didn't want to peg the game against the Jayhawks as a must-win beforehand. However, felt in his heart that it was one his team needed after it coughed up a 19-point lead and fell to then-No. 13 West Virginia three days earlier.
"Before the (Kansas) game, you can't admit that because you don't want to put that pressure on your players, but I sort of felt that way because the last one got away from us," Smart said. "You need to win to reinforce, 'Yeah, this is why we do this.'"
Texas Tech is likely a very similar frame of mind.
The Red Raiders have lost three consecutive conference games and five of their past seven. Before that stretch, they went to Austin and claimed a 79-77 triumph on Jan. 13. Mac McClung hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds for a win that stands as Texas Tech's biggest all season.
Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said his team is bracing for the same kind of toe-to-toe tussle with the Longhorns.
"NBA talent on their roster, 12 of their top 13 players returning from last year's team, obviously three of the most experiences guards in the league, a lot of length around the rim," Beard said, rattling off a sermon of praise for a program where he was once a student manager under Tom Penders before embarking on his career.
The teams split their two games last season, each winning on the opponent's home floor.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 26, 2021