No. 20 Texas seeks to create a hostile atmosphere for No. 11 Texas Tech

AUSTIN — The Texas Department of Athletics is throwing all kinds of student bait ahead of Saturday’s game against No. 11 Texas Tech.

The first 3,500 in line at the Erwin Center will score free Whataburger “hubchubs” (honey butter chicken cookies) and burnt orange T-shirts starting at 8:30 a.m., three hours before the tip-off. Every student with a “Big Ticket” pass will be allowed into the building, and one will be chosen from the crowd for a chance to win a $10,000 halftime promotion.

Bevo XV will also be there in all his horned glory for photo ops, while traveling taphouse ‘Big Beertha’ will park in the square to offer a few pints as the sun rises. Nané, a musical group made up of Texas graduates, will provide the beats with a 9:15 set.

All of this is abnormal. This is all in response – both to the bonkers atmosphere Texas encountered on their trip to Lubbock earlier this month and to a somewhat clandestine operation by Red Raiders supporters to pick up as many tickets as possible and pollute the Erwin Center with their energy.

It’s a bit like the edge of the light chasm.

Texas Tech students camped out for days ahead of former coach Chris Beard’s Feb. 1 return, with tents and food trucks dotting the perimeter of United Supermarkets Arena ahead of that primetime game, which the Red Raiders won 77-64. In turn, the Texas No. 20 (19-7, 8-5 Big 12) pulled out all the stops to create a comparable atmosphere inside the drum.

“The student body, to me, is college basketball,” Beard said Thursday. “Other fans feed off of the student section. We are in the early stages here, year 1. But we are doing very well. So this game, we just wanted to get the message across. There are only a limited number of places in this lower level, and sometimes students express themselves through emails and other things about “I wanted to go down there”. So we also have seats on the upper deck. We want to fill that. We need it.

And Texas needs a win, at least if they want to stay in contention for the Big 12 title.

Texas Tech (20-6, 9-4) is firmly in this race thanks to a 3-1 record against No. 6 Kansas (21-4, 10-2) and No. 7 Baylor (21-5, 9-4 ). The Red Raiders beat the Bears 83-73 on Wednesday to cap the series sweep and bring its record against the top 25 teams to 6-3.

Tech’s victory over Baylor looked awfully like his antics over Texas a few weeks ago. He limited the defending national champions to 43.9% shooting, won the rebound battle by 11 and faltered with 21 second-chance points to Baylor’s 12 while fending off every second-half challenge.

Texas looked equally bewildered by the Red Raiders’ defensive offense and defensive prowess in the first meeting. The Longhorns shot 40 percent, were blocked seven times, and were passed 37-28 in Lubbock, and that was with 6-foot-9 rushing junior Tre Mitchell.

Mitchell walked away from the team for personal reasons, leaving Dylan Disu junior 6-9 as the only Longhorns player with shades of a true great. Otherwise, Texas will need starting forwards Timmy Allen and Christian Bishop to break the glass and provide some inside resistance.

“We’re going to have to be a lot more productive and tough around the baskets with the rebounding game,” Beard said. “They have very good players. They’re the most talented team in the Big 12, player for player, or one of them, you could make that argument. We will therefore have to play well against one of the best teams in the country.

The silver lining for Texas is that they won’t have to drag a two-game losing streak in this heated rematch.

He followed last Saturday’s 17-point loss at Baylor with an 80-78 overtime win over Oklahoma on Tuesday night at Norman, a steely performance in which four of five starters scored at least 15 points. But Tech is a much tougher challenge, and the Longhorns will need his core locked at both ends to secure another coveted Quad 1 victory.

“When it really comes down to it, and I spend a lot of time thinking about these things, it all comes down to discipline,” Beard said. “Can you do the right thing every time? We talked a lot about discipline with our guys. For me, that’s it. This team, if we max out and do what we’re supposed to do with every possession, we can play anybody in the country.

Asked about the disappointment in Lubbock, sixth-year guard Andrew Jones simply replied, “We’re moving forward.”

That’s exactly what Texas will try to do on Saturday morning. And if all goes according to plan, around 16,000 fans will be behind the Longhorns as they attempt to pass Texas Tech.

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Twitter: @NRMoyle

About Lucille Thompson

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