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K-State can’t afford letdown at Tech

By Joel Jellison

There are few teams in college basketball with the type of problems Texas Tech has dealt with this season.

Amid health concerns and allegations of player mistreatment, coach Billy Gillispie resigned a month into the fall semester.

In his place, the Red Raiders gave interim coach Chris Walker a contract that essentially ends at the end of the season. Texas Tech hit the ground running when the season started, and has experienced ups and downs along the way.

The Red Raiders (9-10, 2-6 Big 12) have just two wins in league play, and might have just one win left on their schedule — a second game against TCU.

But the only game Kansas State (17-4, 6-2) coach Bruce Weber has on his mind as his team prepares to play at Texas Tech on Tuesday, is what the Red Raiders did against Iowa State on Jan. 23.

Just days before the Wildcats were scheduled to go on the road to play Iowa State, the red Raiders spoiled a potential matchup of second-place teams in the league by beating the Cyclones 56-51.

The Cyclones were in a similar situation as the Wildcats, with big games looming in their upcoming schedule — with K-State playing Iowa State, Kansas and Baylor in the following three games — and Weber hasn’t let his team forget what happened to Iowa State in Lubbock, Texas.

“Tuesday’s huge, I know big games are coming up, but I already told them ‘who beat Iowa State the week we didn’t?’” Weber said. “With Texas Tech, Chris has done a great job. They control tempo, they make plays, and they’ve beaten people. It’s huge to come back and try to get another road win on Tuesday.”

The Red Raiders haven’t been the most popular team to watch in recent seasons, even in their own house. They rank last in the Big 12 in average attendance, but senior Martavious Irving said that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to play there.

“At the end of the day, even though there aren’t that many fans, they’re all against us anyways,” he said. “Every game is important. They beat Iowa State, who beat us. Any team can win on any night in the Big 12.”

The Red Raiders feature a young lineup led by freshman point guard Josh Gray, who nearly signed with the Wildcats prior to this season. Texas Tech’s leading scorer, though, is junior forward Jaye Crockett, who is scoring 12 points per game off the bench and has started just one of the Red Raiders 19 games.

With the Wildcats win on Saturday over Oklahoma, and Baylor’s loss to Iowa State, K-State moved a game out of first place in the Big 12, while four teams are now tied for third with 10 games left in the conference slate.

Weber said the Wildcats know what it will take to stay in the race for the Big 12.

“I told them, we just want to stay up in the standings, and they only way to do that is to win,” Weber said. “And that means win on the road and not let an opportunity pass us by.” he said.

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