NEW YORK (AP) — Texas Tech’s scruffy walk-on Avery Benson tried to crowd surf at Madison Square Garden and coach Chris Beard thrust his fist in the air at many of the same rabid fans who had told security they were going to rush the court.
The fans were held at bay after No. 1 Louisville went down — but the dancing and water-spraying was on full blast in the Red Raiders’ locker room.
Time to get rowdy? For the Red Raiders, you bet.
About the only thing wilder than the postgame party has been the upset craze at the top of the national rankings. Here’s one poll position no team may want: Louisville is the latest No. 1-and-done team to lose soon after securing the top spot.
Benson sparked the Red Raiders with a pair of highlight-reel blocks, and Davide Moretti scored 18 points and hit successive 3-pointers that helped send them on their way and knock off undefeated No. 1 Louisville 70-57 on Tuesday night.
Louisville became the fourth top-ranked team to lose this season, joining Michigan State, Kentucky and Duke.
“I think it just means it’s a great year for college basketball,” Beard said.
It was a great night for the Red Raiders (6-3).
The Cardinals (9-1) easily played their worst game of the season, shooting an abysmal 34 % from the floor and leading scorer Jordan Nwora had only 14 points. Coach Chris Mack let loose his frustration in the Jimmy V Classic game in the final 90 seconds and was whistled for a technical.
Moretti hit a pair of free throws to seal the win and Texas Tech fans sitting behind the basket told security to “move the rope, we’re running on the floor!”
There was no court storming at the Garden — but another AP No. 1 bit the dust in an upset. It’s the third time an unranked team has beaten an AP No. 1 this season.
“I don’t know what it speaks of, I’m more worried about losing to Texas Tech,” Mack said.
The Red Raiders lost four of their top five scorers off the team that took Virginia to overtime before losing in the NCAA championship game last season. While Beard could have expected a bit of a transition season, three straight losses, including one at — an albeit, improved and nationally ranked — DePaul made for a rocky start. And with leading scorer Jahmi’us Ramsey (17.3 points) out for the third straight game because of a hamstring injury, the prospect for a win at MSG seemed remote.
Then again, no team can be counted out this season against the hoops heavyweights.
Moretti buried two straight 3s midway through the second half (he missed his eight other attempts) for an 11-point lead that gave the Red Raiders the space they needed. Chris Clarke hit another 3 for Texas Tech and it went into a timeout with a seven-point lead.
Louisville could never make a run, and Nwora was held below his 21.4 scoring average. Louisville missed 3s, layups and generally looked lethargic on offense. Down eight, guard Darius Perry was whistled for a charge in the paint and the unraveling Cards were about out of chances.
“We’re going to have to grow from this and use it as a lesson learned,” Mack said.
Security did man the baseline to keep the wildly enthusiastic Red Raiders fans at bay.
“We had the Raider Power going in Madison Square Garden,” Beard said.
The Cardinals missed 20 of 28 shots overall from the floor in the first half and were limited from 3-point range, the kind of shooting that gave a scuffling team like Texas Tech a chance.
And who knew, the walk-on would lead them.
Benson, one of only three players back from last year’s team, had the Red Raiders fans going wild with a pair of sensational blocks that stunned the Cards. Benson stuffed Nwora, a player of the year candidate, and then finished the half with a monster rejection off a Lamarr Kimble shot at the horn to send the Red Raiders into halftime up 31-28. They led by as many as nine in the half and were in prime position to pull off the No. 1 stunner.
Benson, the shaggy-haired, ink-stained bundle of energy, had his teammates riled up from tip.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to pump the breaks,” he said. “But I’d rather pump the breaks than not be rolling at all.”
The Garden saw its share of top teams since the season opened: Michigan State in the Champions Classic and Duke in the 2K Empire Classic also were No. 1 in the AP poll in games played at MSG. They aren’t No. 1 anymore — and by Monday’s poll, the Cardinals should be knocked off the perch.
“I don’t think there’s going to be one dominant team,” Beard said.
Louisville: The Cardinals will be just fine, though they’ll surely lose their No. 1 ranking. They became the sixth Top 5 team to lose to an unranked squad this season — No. 4 Maryland fell earlier in the evening to Penn State.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders got the confidence boost they needed and hope the remaining soft nonconference schedule can pad their record before Big 12 play begins in a few weeks.
With the Cards all but out of the top spot Monday in the next AP poll, it will be the sixth time there have five No. 1 teams in one season. The record is seven in 1983. There have been seven seasons with six No. 1 teams.
Louisville returns home Saturday to play Eastern Kentucky.
Texas Tech hosts Southern Mississippi on Monday in the first of five straight home games.
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