Texas Tech halts 3-game Big 12 skid, tops Texas 67-57 (Mar 01, 2017)

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) As the architect of an upset over a No. 5 seed in last year’s NCAA tournament while coaching Arkansas-Little Rock, Texas Tech coach Chris Beard spoke optimistically about what’s ahead for his team despite a sub .500 conference record. 

The Red Raiders, who halted a three-game Big 12 losing streak and beat Texas 67-57 Wednesday behind 18 points from Keenan Evans and 15 points from Justin Gray, sit eighth in the Big 12 with one game remaining before next week’s Big 12 tournament.

“This is the beauty of our sport, right?” Beard said. “No matter how your season has gone, everybody has a new life in March. This is what March Madness is. It’s not just the tournament. It starts with the conference tournaments. There will be teams that go to the conference tournaments on the automatic bid that tonight you wouldn’t predict.”

Aaron Ross, a fifth-year senior that has played under four coaches at Texas Tech, finished with 13 points and six rebounds for the Red Raiders on senior night.

“I took it as like another game,” Ross said. “But coming out of the tunnel was just a lot of butterflies. Knowing it was my last game. I’m going to miss it. Just looking forward to watching these guys next year.”

Shaquille Cleare led Texas (10-20, 4-13) with 15. Jacob Young added 14 points. 

Jarrett Allen had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Longhorns and Kendal Yancy finished with seven points and five rebounds.

Texas, which was held under its season scoring average of 68.3 points, was outscored in points off the bench, 45-21.

Texas Tech (18-12, 6-11) took control of the game early in the second half, leading 48-31 after consecutive Gray jumpers and a two-handed Zach Smith dunk.

“I thought that was the difference in the game – the first four or five minutes of the second half,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “We had to use two timeouts. We had a couple possessions really early in the half where (Texas Tech) made some tough shots. But, that can’t deflate you.”

 Midway through the first half, Texas Tech had a 13-12 advantage and capitalized on a Texas shooting drought inside the final two minutes to lead 34-29 at halftime.

“Just playing solid defense,” Gray said. “Just making them pretty much wind down the shot clock and force them to take a tough shot. We call it the ‘kill drill,’ where we get three stops in a row.”

 Ross, who finished with six points in Texas Tech’s Feb. 1 road loss to Texas, led all scorers at the half with 12 points. Both teams combined for just 11 free throw attempts by halftime.

Big Picture

Texas: The Longhorns, who are in the midst of a six-game conference losing streak, last won on Feb. 7 at home against Iowa State. From Jan. 7 to Jan. 21, Texas lost five Big 12 games in a row.

“It’s more disappointing than anything,” Smart said. “I’ve not really been through a season like this. I’m just trying to make sure I stay focused on helping our guys grow. Trying to help them be in a good place.”

 Texas Tech:  After losing to West Virginia, Iowa State and Oklahoma State consecutively, the Red Raiders picked up their first victory since a Feb. 13 upset of then-ranked No. 4 Baylor.

Up Next

Texas hosts Baylor Saturday ahead of the Big 12 tournament, which begins March 8 in Kansas City.

Texas Tech visits Kansas State Saturday in its final regular season Big 12 game. 

A Long Journey

Among the players honored during Wednesday’s pregame senior night ceremony was Texas Tech’s Thomas Brandsma, who has played under Beard at three other schools: McMurry (2012-13), Angelo State (2013-15) and Arkansas-Little Rock (2015-16).