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Saturday, November 20, 1999
Last modified at 3:33 a.m. on Saturday, November 20, 1999

photo: arena

  Texas Tech's Mario Layne finds himself surrounded by Indiana's Lynn Washington (44) and another Hoosier player during Friday nightr's season opener, won by Indiana 68-60.
A-J photo/Wade Kennedy

Despite falling short, Red Raiders pleased


Texas Tech didn't exactly get what it sought Friday night when the Red Raiders launched the United Spirit Arena against Indiana.

But other than a 68-60 shortcoming on the scoreboard, the reviews were very positive in regard to the brand-new arena.

A school-record crowd of 15,050 was on hand to christen the new $62 million facility. And with the exception of a difficult-to-hear public address system, there were few glitches on opening night.

"I was pleased with the turnout," said Tech head coach James Dickey, who opened his ninth season. "The enthusiasm was great, but we took the crowd out of the game with our lack of offense. We've got to win games like this to create the enthusiasm where people want to come out."

The packed house was a definite factor in Tech's favor early on when it stormed to a 22-13 lead. On several occasions most notably when Mario Layne leap-frogged Indiana star A.J. Guyton to block a shot on a fast-break layup the crowd came to a full-bore roar.

"It was so much louder than the (Municipal Coliseum)," Tech senior Rayford Young said. "You can hear the fans clearly, and when you do something good you can feel their emotions."

The crowd did have one less memorable moment. When referee Tom Rucker made two controversial calls late in the second half, a handful of people threw debris on to the floor, prompting a warning from the PA announcer that Tech would be assessed a technical foul.

Other than that, though, the crowd did its part to break in the Raiders and Lady Raiders new domain.

"The arena is going to be fine," Dickey said. "We've got to worry about the product we put between the lines."

Dickey and his players also urged Tech fans to make crowds like Friday's record-setter the norm rather than the exception.

"As long as they keep coming back we're going to keep putting on a show for them," said Raider sophomore Andy Ellis, who registered a career-high 30 points.

Dickey was more direct in his request for the Tech students and fans.

"Come back," he said. "This is their arena. They helped build it and gave $20 million to get good seats."

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