No. 24 Texas Tech’s takedown of No. 1 Louisville last week pushed the Red Raiders back into their accustomed spot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Texas Tech, which dropped out of the rankings after a three-game losing streak, will play host to Southern Mississippi on Monday. The Red Raiders are looking to defend a 51-game nonconference home winning streak in its first contest since posting a 70-57 victory over the Cardinals on Tuesday.
“I think it just means it’s a great year for college basketball,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said after the Louisville game.
Left unsaid was that the fact that the victory also means that the Red Raiders (6-3) will remain a force on the national scene even after losing four starters from a team reached the finals of the NCAA tournament before falling to Virginia.
Texas Tech limited Louisville to 34.0 percent shooting and forced the Cardinals into 13 second-half turnovers.
“I don’t think you can play much harder than we did in some spurts,” Beard said.
Not even a miserable return to Lubbock (Texas) that included a one-hour delay on a New York airport tarmac could spoil the mood.
“Just like in life, if you win it doesn’t matter,” Beard said. “If the food is a cold, nobody cares. Everybody is hugging the nutritionist. It doesn’t matter if the bus driver takes the wrong turn. Nobody had a problem sitting on the tarmac for an hour because we won.”
Texas Tech reached No. 12 in the rankings before losing to Iowa, Creighton and DePaul — the last two in overtime — to fall out of the AP Top 25 for the first time this season.
Guard Davide Moretti scored 18 points and hit a pair of 3-pointers midway through the second half before icing the Louisville victory with six free throws in the final 1:12.
“We all knew that we had a big opportunity in front of us,” Moretti said. “We dropped a couple games, so we felt like we had to bounce back in some ways. We knew it was probably the biggest opportunity we could have all year, playing against the No. 1 team after a three-game losing streak.
“That was our mindset — a big opportunity and to try and play as hard as we possibly could.”
Moretti, the lone returning starter, is averaging 14.2 points and Terrence Shannon Jr. is averaging 11.6. Freshman Jahmi’us Ramsey, the leading scorer at 17.3 points a game, is expected to miss his fourth straight contest with a hamstring injury.
Senior Virginia Tech transfer Chris Clarke is averaging a team-leading 8.8 rebounds, and he had 12 rebounds and six assists against Louisville.
“He’s not hunting stats, he’s hunting wins,” Beard said. “And that’s something I respect about him.”
Southern Miss (3-8) has lost five of its last six against a demanding schedule that has included games against Gonzaga, Seton Hall, Iowa State and Alabama — all losses.
Forward Boban Jacdonmi (12.4 points), guard Gabe Watson (11.9) and forward Tyler Stevenson (11.4) lead Southern Miss in scoring. Stevenson, a sophomore, had a career-high 27 points in the 72-69 loss to North Florida on Saturday.
Jacdonmi missed his the past three games with an ankle injury and his status for Monday’s game is unclear.
“We aren’t looking at a rebuilding process,” coach Jay Ladner said. “We have an urgency to win now.”
–Field Level Media