Jordan Tolbert dominated for Texas Tech on Saturday afternoon. His coach thinks he's capable of doing that more often.
"I always joke with everybody: It's always about what side of the bed Tolbert wakes up on," Chris Walker said after the Red Raiders, led by Tolbert's 22 points, snapped a nine-game losing streak by beating TCU 72-63.
"That's the bottom line," Walker continued. "I told Tolbert, 'You are a much better player than you show; it's just the level of concentration and the want-to. You have it in you; the question is, what's going through your mind and why don't we see it on a consistent basis?'"
Four of Tolbert's field goals came in the form of lob-pass, alley-oop dunks that brought the Red Raiders — and the home crowd — to life.
"We saw it on film, how they defended it," Dejan Kravic said. "We thought it would work. It worked the first time, so I threw it up and it worked a few more times. . I knew if I threw it up, (Tolbert) would catch it."
Kravic added 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Red Raiders (10-17, 3-13 Big 12).
"I've been in a slump lately, and they said they were going to keep it to us in the post," Kravic says. "That says my team still believes in me, and I believe in myself, and I just tried to make plays."
Kyan Anderson led the Horned Frogs (10-19, 1-15) with 18 points, and Devonta Abron added 16.
The Red Raiders got out to an early 12-4 lead, but two Anderson 3-pointers helped the Horned Frogs take a two-point lead with 9:17 left in the first half. Texas Tech got in sync offensively and went into halftime up 34-28.
"We put a lot of pressure on our offense when we can't get stops, and we put a lot of pressure on our defense when we don't make shots," TCU coach Trent Johnson said.
Kravic and Tolbert scored all of the Red Raiders' points in the first 7½ minutes of the second half to put Texas Tech up by 14 with 11:53 left.
A Charles Hill free throw with around 5 minutes to go closed the lead to three, but Tech built it back and held on.
The game looks to finally be slowing down for the young Red Raiders, who successfully executed several plays offensively and relied less on quick scores.
"We just played with poise, that's the most important thing we did today," Walker said. "I continuously talk to our guys about not necessarily looking at the scoreboard; that's not where we are right now. We look at our effort, at things that lead toward winning: diving on loose balls, assists, hitting open men, playing with toughness, rebounding, not giving the other team second shots."
With 3:39 to go in the first half, Walker called in a play called "Carolina" from the Texas Tech bench. It ended in a pass from Kravic to Tolbert for a one-handed, windmill alley-oop dunk that ignited the crowd at United Spirit Arena.
That put Tech ahead 29-24 and helped the young team's confidence offensively, but Anderson quickly added four more for TCU to close within one.
The Red Raiders showed further signs of maturity as the half ended. Freshman sensation guard Josh Gray drove to the basket, then kicked it out to wide-open Ty Nurse, who hit a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left in the half to go up 34-28.
"I continuously talk to these guys about being like Chinese bamboo, and how it stays in the ground for four years and you water it and you don't see the fruits of your labor," Walker said. "Then, all of the sudden, it grows to 80 feet and it's an immovable thing."
Gray finished the game with 11 points, seven in the second half, and three steals.
Adrick McKinney was another bright spot for TCU, scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Abron grabbed six boards for the Horned Frogs.
Jaye Crockett, who has led Texas Tech in scoring more often than anyone else this season, saw only 15 minutes of play, but Tech's other two big men, Kravic and Tolbert, took over the game.
Both teams grabbed 28 rebounds, but the Red Raiders, led by Tolbert and Kravic, outscored the Horned Frogs 42-22 in the paint.