LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Texas Tech guard Robert Turner remembers when his former team, New Mexico Junior College, blew a 16-point lead en route to a loss in its second-round NJCAA national championship tournament game last March.
So when the Red Raiders trailed by 19 points with 13 minutes remaining and nine points with 2:40 left Sunday, he didn’t worry. He figured his team could rally against Air Force.
"Two minutes is a lot of time," Turner said. "That nine-point deficit in 2 minutes is a piece of cake if you keep giving effort and keep playing hard."
The Red Raiders finished their late rally for a 63-62 home win against Air Force. Turner’s free throw with 23 seconds remaining, after he missed the first attempt, gave his team its final point.
He finished with 19 points, and teammate Devaugntah Williams scored a career-high 21. The Red Raiders improved to 4-1 for the eighth time in nine seasons.
They trailed by 19 points, 46-27, with 13 minutes left but went on a 25-10 run over the next 8:37 to cut the deficit to four, 56-52, with 4:23 remaining.
"It’s kind of nerve-wracking," Turner said. "You want to get it back at one time, but you’ve got to take it one possession at a time. Every possession really counts being down that much."
The Falcons (3-3) nearly made Texas Tech’s late rally for naught after going on a 6-1 run to extend their lead to nine points, 62-53, with 2:40 remaining in the game.
But the Red Raiders scored the final 10 points. Williams provided seven of those, including two on a dunk with 26 seconds left following a 5-second violation by Air Force. The bucket evened the score at 62.
Turner stole the ensuing in-bounds play and was fouled, leading to his game-winning free throw.
The Red Raiders outscored Air Force 47-30 in the second half.
"They were a different team in the second half," Falcons coach Dave Pilipovich said. "They played with a little bit of an edge, especially as it got under the 10-minute mark. We didn’t handle the ball very well. We turned it over too many times in the second half."
The Red Raiders struggled with turnovers early, which allowed the Falcons to build an early lead. With 15:40 remaining in the first half, the Red Raiders committed four turnovers over the next 3:54, allowing Air Force to extend a 7-6 lead to 14-6.
Three late first-half turnovers gave the Falcons a 32-16 halftime lead.
"We’re very fortunate to get the win today," Red Raiders coach Tubby Smith said. "We had to make some big plays down the stretch, and we did it."
Air Force: The Falcons shot 18 of 55 (32.7 percent) in their 68-53 loss at Colorado last Tuesday, the first time they shot under 50 percent this season. They responded well Sunday against the Red Raiders, shooting 23 of 47 (48.9 percent), but were still held under 50 percent. Air Force entered Sunday’s game ranked No. 23 nationally in field goal percentage and No. 21 in 3-point field goal percentage.
Texas Tech: Red Raiders center Norense Odiase entered Sunday leading Big 12 freshmen in scoring (12.0) and second in rebounding (6.8). Those figures lead highly recruited Cliff Alexander (Kansas) and Myles Turner (Texas). Odiase has averaged 8.5 points and four rebounds in the second half of games, but he struggled Sunday with no points and three rebounds.
Justin Gray, who has started all five games for the Red Raiders and scored three points Saturday, left with 3:10 remaining in the game. He had X-rays on his right hip after the game, but coach Tubby Smith didn’t have any further information on Gray’s condition. Gray didn’t place any weight on his right leg as he was being helped off the court.
Air Force plays host to Grambling State on Wednesday.
Texas Tech plays host to Auburn in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Wednesday.