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Archive for Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Texas Tech making major strides

Led by standout Emmett, Knight’s Red Raiders look like league contenders

January 13, 2004

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— Texas Tech finally entered the Top 25 Monday, but it didn't take a nine-game winning streak and a national ranking for the rest of the Big 12 Conference to know how good coach Bob Knight's team is this season.

"This could be Bob's best team since he's been at Tech," Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said. "Defensively, they're playing better, they're executing their offense better than they have been, and they get to the ball to (Andre) Emmett in positions he can score."

Sutton should know better than any other Big 12 coach. His Cowboys (10-2) lost their conference opener 83-62 in Lubbock over the weekend. Emmett scored 32 points to lead the Red Raiders.

"He's the best player in the conference," Sutton said.

Emmett was named the league's player of the week Monday for the third straight time, a first for the eight-year-old league. He's won the weekly award four times this season, already matching the record held by Kansas' Drew Gooden (2001-02) and Iowa State's Marcus Fizer (1999-2000) -- and league play is just getting starting.

Texas Tech (13-2), which won 45 games in Knight's first two seasons, moved into the poll at No. 22 on a winning streak that followed losses to Georgia Tech and SMU. The Red Raiders were ranked for just two weeks last season.

Oklahoma (10-1) is still the Big 12's highest-ranked team. But the Sooners, whose game Jan. 19 at Texas Tech will be their third in six days, dropped six spots to 11th after their first loss since the NCAA Final Four last season, 86-59, Sunday at No. 1 Connecticut.

"We were playing against a team better than us," Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson said. "We don't quite have the identity we'd like to have with this year's team that we've had in the past."

Kansas University (9-2), dropped a spot to 14th despite a three-game winning streak. Texas (9-2), which has won four in a row, remained No. 18.

Kansas coach Bill Self doesn't have to face Texas Tech until Feb. 7, but he watched the Red Raiders' impressive Big 12 opener.

"I like their team. They've been rock solid," Self said. "They've been guarding people and are athletic enough to really get out and pressure people. They are one of the top teams in our league. I haven't studied everybody yet like I'm getting ready to, but when they play well, they play as well as anybody in our league."

While the league boasts four Top 25 teams, the only team that already has two Big 12 wins -- and the only one to play two such games so far -- is Iowa State for new coach Wayne Morgan. The Cyclones beat Missouri 70-65, and then won 89-74 over Nebraska.

"I'm not surprised or shocked. The two games we won, we had to play really hard," Morgan said. "We earned it. It wasn't an accident."

Still, Morgan isn't ready to proclaim his team as Big 12 contenders.

"We're beginning to get to the point to compete against teams in the upper division, but I don't know if we're to the point to beat teams in the upper division," he said.

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