Texas Tech fans — and there were plenty at the Erwin Center — got a chance to celebrate another score-settling win over former coach Chris Beard.
For current Tech coach Mark Adams, the 61-55 win Saturday over Texas and his former boss in Beard, fell more under the heading of relief than exultation.
“I don’t like playing my friends, and I think he feels the same way,” Adams said. “We were just fortunate enough that the clock ran out, and we were able to win.”
Adams had a solid rationale for his reasoning. After spending the first 37 minutes or so imposing their will on Texas — especially on defense and physically in the paint — the Red Raiders nearly blew all over a 10-point lead before holding on.
Not everybody agreed with the sentiment, whether in the Tech locker room or the stands.
Memories of Beard’s decision to bolt Lubbock last April for big money and big expectations at Texas are still too fresh, the feeling of betrayal too raw.
“With all the respect I got for them, that was personal,” Tech guard Clarence Nadolny said afterward. “You don’t want to lose to the guy that left you. … Everybody was emotionally attached to this game.”
A junior from France, Nadolny was the unlikely X-factor in the game. Tenacious and physical but hardly a pure shooter, Nadolny scored 14 points, equaling his total from his previous seven games.
His key offensive rebound and free throw with 23 seconds left gave Tech a four-point lead and quelled any thoughts of a Texas comeback.
A 9-0 run fueled by four Tech turnovers had brought Texas to within one point at 56-55 when Andrew Jones hit a wing 3-pointer. The Longhorns would not score again.
Jones finished with a game-high 20 points. Forward Bryson Williams led Tech with 17 points.
With the win, No. 11 Tech (21-6, 10-4 Big 12) stayed in a second-place tie in the conference with Baylor, behind Kansas. No. 20 Texas (19-8, 8-6) lost for just the second time this season at home.
Each team was without a key player. Tech was minus do-it-all guard Kevin McCullar (ankle) for the second straight game. Texas’ Tre Mitchell missed his second game after taking a personal leave of absence.
A sellout crowd at the Erwin Center featured thousands of red-and-black clad Tech fans who had gained access to the Texas ticket system. Texas responded by ending ticket sales quickly but not soon enough. School officials, including Beard, encouraged students with the athletic “Big Ticket” to attend, saying they wouldn’t be turned away.
While Texas had the majority of fans, Tech fans were a distinct presence, giving the game an NCAA regional final vibe. When Jones missed everything on a second-half shot, he was greeted with an “airball” chant. At home. Some of Tech’s trademark tortillas took flight during the game. Even “The Eyes of Texas” got booed.
“It didn’t feel like a road game, as much as it usually does because we had that sea of red,” Adams said.
Texas’ two top scorers never really got going, although they weren’t alone. The Longhorns shot just 28.3% and went more than eight minutes without a field goal spanning the first and second half. Tech outscored Texas 26-10 in the lane.
Leading scorer Timmy Allen was limited by foul trouble to 14 minutes and managed just six points. Point guard Marcus Carr went scoreless, going 0-for-6 from the field to go with four turnovers to two assists.
Adams said containing Carr was a priority for Tech’s defense.
“It’s no doubt that I didn’t play my best today,” Carr said. “Definitely a lot falls on my shoulders. I apologize to coach and my teammates for that. Just try to go out there and make plays in other ways.”
Beard refused to criticize his team or dwell on the loss, saying he was going to stay positive.
“They don’t hand the [NCAA] trophy out in February. They do that in April,” Beard said. “We’re disappointed we didn’t play better today…
“It’s a hurt locker room right now for us. But, we’ll be back.”
Ross Fisher in Austin contributed to this report.
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