Texas Tech shocks No. 1 Baylor, handing Bears their first loss of the season

Red Raider Nation

Texas Tech guard Clarence Nadolny attempts a 3-point shot over Baylor guard Matthew Mayer during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)

WACO, Texas – The Baylor Bears had won 21 straight games. Their last loss was March 12, 2021. Until Tuesday.

No. 19 Texas Tech handed the top-ranked team in the nation their first loss of the season, using fervent defense and a relentless offensive attack to topple No. 1 Baylor 65-62. 

The victory was Texas Tech’s first over the top-ranked team in the country since they beat Louisville on December 10, 2019. It was just Baylor’s third loss over the last two seasons. 

The Red Raiders fought off a slow start to secure the win. Two Adam Flagler 3-pointers and a Kendall Brown and-one gave the Bears a 9-0 lead before a minute-and-a-half of gameplay had elapsed. With 9:10 remaining in the first half, the Bears led 24-9. 

But Texas Tech battled back.

The Red Raider defense locked in, holding the Bears scoreless for the final 6:13 of the first half. They scored 10 points in that span, cutting Baylor’s lead to 31-26 at the break.

Texas Tech’s defense stayed laser-focused until the very end. Baylor trailed by three with 22 seconds remaining in the game, but on its last possession it dribbled and dribbled and could not generate a good shot. James Akinjo heaved the ball towards the hoop as time expired, but it clanked off the rim.  

Just like in their win over No. 6 Kansas Saturday, the Red Raiders’ recipe for victory Tuesday was dominating the interior and forcing turnovers. 

Clarence Nadolny bulldozed his way to the rim repeatedly and finished in traffic with both of his hands. Adonis Arms did damage inside as well, most memorably spinning and slamming home a tomahawk dunk to extend Texas Tech’s lead to 61-57 with 1:24 remaining in the game. TTU outscored Baylor 36-22 in the paint. 

On defense, the Red Raiders were everywhere, deflecting passes, harassing ball-handlers and walling off the middle of the floor. They turned 14 Baylor turnovers into 19 points and shot the ball 9.8 percent better than the Bears from the floor.

While Terrence Shannon Jr. remained out, Texas Tech did get Kevin McCullar back. McCullar was visibly bothered by the injured ankle that kept him out of Texas Tech’s first two Big 12 games, but still gritted his way to 31 minutes and 12 points, six rebounds and five assists off the bench. McCullar sank a clutch 3-pointer that gave the Red Raiders a 59-52 lead with 2:39 remaining in the game.

McCullar’s shot was one of several critical ones that Texas Tech scored down the stretch, but Baylor never wilted. Flagler followed McCullar’s 3 with five straight points of his own. Arms threw down his spinning dunk on the next possession and Bryson Williams made a jump shot after that, but Akinjo scored five points in five seconds to trim the deficit to one. 

Texas Tech locked the game up with two Davion Warren free throws and its stifling final defensive possession, which included Marcus Santos-Silva staying with Akinjo as he tried to shake him for a clean look.

As it should against any top opponent, Texas Tech needed several players at peak form to bring down the Bears. The Red Raiders had five players score in double figures: McCullar, Arms, Williams, Nadolny and Kevin Obanor. Warren’s two free throws at the end of the game were the only points scored by anyone else on the team. 

Arms led the team in both scoring (14) and rebounding (9) and shared the assist lead with McCullar (5). His signature play was the dunk, but he also had three baskets off of offensive rebounds, all of which came in the game’s final 10 minutes. 

Mark Adams opened his first Big 12 slate with a game at No. 11 Iowa State, against No. 6 Kansas and at No. 1 Baylor. Even without Shannon, he emerged from that stretch 2-1.

The Adams era is just getting started, but it looks like the Red Raiders haven’t lost a step from where Chris Beard left them.

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