Texas Tech fans packed the United Supermarkets arena for its nonconference showdown against No. 15 Kentucky on Saturday. [John Moore/ Press Pass Sports]
LUBBOCK— The Kentucky Wildcats played in Lubbock.
Are you kidding me? Think about that for a second.
Texas Tech hosted its biggest nonconference opponent since opening the United Supermarket Arena doors with Indiana in 1999.
I’ve attended so many Texas Tech games since I can remember, and it’s still hard to take in.
Never in my wildest dream did I think a storied blue blood like Kentucky would ever grace the floor of the USA.
I have countless moments — good and bad — from watching Tech games in the old Coliseum, better known as “The Bubble” which sadly doesn’t exist anymore, to watching games at the USA.
But I can easily say watching Kentucky is a memory I’ll take with me the rest of my life.
That’s a tip of the cap to fourth-year Tech coach Chris Beard and his staff, and where they’ve steered the Red Raiders basketball program.
Who’d ever thought Tech basketball would play for an NCAA national championship last March. That was crazy enough.
Thanks to that banner year, it’s catupulted Tech to highlighting the Big 12/ SEC basketball challenge. That speaks volumes.
Being a member of the media I found it extremely difficult not to be one of the hostile 5,000 plus students that camped out to get into the Kentucky game since Thursday. I found it difficult to not want to lose my mind and scream when Tech hit a clutch bucket late in the game, or force overtime with a team as talented as the Wildcats.
For the most parts of Saturday afternoon I sat in the media row of the second level of the arena and took it all in.
Texas Tech of all places is on the college basketball map.
Over 5,000 students helped rock the United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock on Saturday. [John Moore/ Press Pass Sports]
The USA was deafening, at times shaking, as the students made the atmosphere one of the most difficult to play in with the energy they brought throughout a game.
I loved every second of it, even though Tech did fall short in the OT contest, 76-74.
Even in the postgame press conference, Kentucky and veteran college basketball coach John Calipari was complimentary when talking about the hoopla surrounding Saturday’s game.
“We get a lot of these (opposing crowds),” said Calipari, who‘s coached in six Final Fours, and won a national title. “This one was unique. I’ve been to all kind of arenas. This was a classy crowd. That’s the way it should be.”
Classy and a Tech crowd is two things rarely put in a same sentence, but Calipari was dead on. It was electric, it was exciting, and anyone who loves basketball, and college sports had a blast in that environment.
The Red Raiders program has come a long way from when I sat fourth row in the arena as a regular in 2011-2012 in front of maybe 2,000 fans a night.
Keep it up, coach Beard. This is what all of us Texas Tech fans have been waiting for.