Kentucky takes on Texas Tech in annual Big 12/SEC Challenge


Students in the eRUPPtion Zone hold signs during the game against Georgia on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 89-79. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Braden Ramsey

No. 15 Kentucky heads to Lubbock this weekend for a battle with No. 18 Texas Tech in the seventh annual Big 12/SEC Challenge. Everything is bigger in the Lone Star state, and with this match-up being the only one of the challenge and weekend between ranked foes, it shapes up to follow the mantra.

The SEC won the challenge two years ago, but that is its only victory. The Big 12 has won four of the other five, with a in 2017. The Big 12 also holds a 35-25 edge in total wins.

Because of a difference in total members between the conferences, four SEC teams do not participate in the challenge each year. Kentucky has never been one of those ill-fated teams though, and is 3-3 in the event with back-to-back victories. Texas Tech is 4-2, and on a three-game winning streak.

The Red Raiders stunned the nation with a national championship appearance in 2019, which was just head coach Chris Beard’s third on the job since leaving Arkansas-Little Rock. They began this year ranked No. 13, but suffered an early three-game losing streak that dropped them from the Top 25. They rebounded from those losses by beating previously unbeaten and then-No. 1 Louisville in Madison Square Garden, and have remained in the Top 25 since then.

Kentucky and Texas Tech have not faced off in the challenge before, and have met just four previous times. The most recent meeting came in 1994. The Wildcats are 4-0 in those games, all against unranked Red Raider squads.

The Cats come into this contest looking for their third straight win. Texas Tech aims to rebound from a loss at TCU. 

One could argue there is more shared history in the schools’ coaching staffs than there is on the court. Hall of Famer Bobby Knight spent eight years manning the Texas Tech bench after leading Kentucky rival Indiana for thirty seasons. Former Wildcat head coaches Tubby Smith and Billy Gillispie spent four and two years respectively as the Red Raiders’ top dog after their time in Lexington.

No matter the amount of past interaction, Saturday’s game will be fun to watch, and will decide which conference takes home the challenge title. Tip-off is at 6:00 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on ESPN and the ESPN app.