No. 21 Texas Tech seeks more highlights vs. Florida Atlantic

LUBBOCK, Texas — Texas Tech seems to be using the calm before the Big 12 storm to put together a highlight reel of dunks.

Last week, Red Raiders forward Zach Smith sent a ripple through the college basketball world with a dramatic windmill dunk in his team’s 82-53 victory over Kennessaw State on Wednesday. Then on Saturday, guard Keenan Evans threw an alley-oop pass off the backboard that forward Zhaire Smith slammed home on Texas Tech’s way to a 73-53 win against Rice.

Those plays indicated that the No. 21 Red Raiders (9-1) are enjoying their tuneup for Big 12 action, which begins at the end of the month.

Before that, Texas Tech hosts Florida Atlantic (6-4) on Tuesday night at the United Supermarkets Arena.

The Red Raiders overcame a slow start offensively as they shot just 36 percent from the field in the first half, and produced a poor 7-for-21 performance from the free-throw line in the win over Rice. But Texas Tech’s defense wore down the Owls as it won the second half, 44-28.

Although the Red Raiders made the most of a throwback game in which they wore 1990’s-era uniforms and played in their old home, the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum, coach Chris Beard acknowledged his team didn’t earn many style points in its latest victory.

“I kind of sense it in (the postgame press conference) even you guys don’t think we played great,” Beard said. “But that’s expectations. There was a time not too long ago where, if Texas Tech won a game by 20-something points, it would probably be a great night. We’re starting to raise the expectations of our team and I love it.”

Texas Tech will finish a quirky portion of the schedule in which it hosts three straight teams with Owl mascots. After dismissing the Kennesaw State and Rice Owls last week, the Florida Atlantic Owls get their chance to outwit the Red Raiders. On paper, Florida Atlantic poses the biggest challenge as its current RPI of 183 is significantly higher than Texas Tech’s two opponents last week.

But the Owls have had mixed results in nonconference play so far. Florida Atlantic posted a 92-88 win against Florida Gulf Coast during a recent four-game winning streak that ended on Saturday in a 64-63 home loss to Arkansas State.

Texas Tech, which has 10 players averaging better than 13 minutes per game, has been able to wear down most of its nonconference opponents.

However, Florida Atlantic can counter with good depth as the Owls have used an 8 to 10 man rotation. Guard Gerdarius Troutman is averaging 14 points to lead a trio of Owls scoring in double-digits. Florida Atlantic 7-foot center Ronald Delph is close to posting a double-double per game at 13.3 points and 9.7 rebounds.

On the defensive end, the Owls will try to slow down Evans, who leads the Red Raiders with 17.2 points and 3.7 assists per game.

But Texas Tech has shown it can produce on offense even if Evans doesn’t score, as was the case in the Red Raiders’ 103-69 win over Savannah State in November. Texas Tech has nine players who have scored in double digits at least once this season.