By virtue of experience and genes, Texas Tech coach Pat Knight knows what good defense looks like. Last season's team didn't measure up to family standards.
"We just gave up way too many points last year," he said. "I didn't put a big enough emphasis on defense. We were too focused on offense."
Anyone who watched Tech's 72-69 win over Wichita State a year ago understands. The Red Raiders gave up 43 second-half points to the Shockers, who shot 51.5 percent to make up a 17-point deficit.
And that was a decent defensive performance for Tech, which gave up 78.8 points a game to rank last in the Big 12.
No. 16 Texas Tech returns the game tonight at Wichita State (9-1), becoming the first ranked non-conference opponent to visit WSU since No. 21 Mississippi in 1997.
Knight dealt with numerous defensive issues in his first full season after taking over for his father late in the 2007-08 season. He didn't possess the athletes to play man to man. He tried zones and presses to hide weak defenders. The Red Raiders shot too quickly, which only made their defensive shortcomings more of a problem.
As one might expect from the son of defensive guru Bob Knight, Tech got better. One year later, the Red Raiders are more athletic and more focused on defense. Pat Knight brought in three junior college transfers to help guard high-scoring perimeter players.
Like Bob Knight's teams, Pat Knight's team plays man to man and doesn't mess with much else.
"The guys bought in," Pat Knight said. "They've seen what we can do when we do play defense."
Tech is allowing 63.7 points. Last season, it allowed seven non-conference opponents to break 80 points. This season, only then-No. 10 Washington did so, in a 99-92 overtime loss at Texas Tech.
"They get out in passing lanes," WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. "They can sit down and guard you. They've got some guys with some length that can block the shot if you don't finish strong around the basket."
Tech's defense is one of many challenges it presents in one of the biggest games to hit WSU in years. No. 12 Creighton is the last ranked team to play at WSU, a 2003 game played at the Kansas Coliseum during the renovation of Koch Arena.
"We've got to eliminate easy baskets that they're going to get, and we've got to get some," Marshall said. "Grinding it out for 40 minutes — they probably have better players on paper."
The Shockers are trying to find the right mix of excitement and perspective. A win helps their RPI (WSU's is No. 155, Tech's No. 28 according to collegerpi.com) and national profile. A win shows the Shockers didn't build their record solely against weak competition.
"We know everybody is probably still saying we're a fluke," WSU guard Clevin Hannah said. "We're going through the same thing we do for every game. Prepare just like it's another team."
A loss doesn't change much — the Shockers need to play well in January and February regardless of tonight's outcome.
"Coach is doing a great job of not getting us too comfortable on where our record stands," WSU junior J.T. Durley said. "We all know, in the back of our minds, all the teams we've been playing so far are not as good as the team's we're going to be playing."
Even the potential for highlight time on ESPN, should WSU upset a ranked team, doesn't get forward Gabe Blair too excited.
"We look at them enough on the Internet, so that's not really a big factor," he said. "It's exciting to keep winning and get better as a team — everybody's excited about that."