December 22, 2017 / 11:42 PM / a year ago

No. 21 Texas Tech cruises past Abilene Christian

No. 21 Texas Tech cruises past Abilene Christian

Texas Tech struggled to find its top gear on offense in its final non-conference game before Big 12 play begins.

It didn’t matter, though, since the Red Raiders’ defense flustered Abilene Christian all afternoon and paved the way to a 74-47 victory on Friday at the United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

The No. 21 Red Raiders held Abilene Christian to 29.5 percent shooting and outrebounded the Wildcats 44-32.

“We’ve been able to get the ball inside all nonconference. They switched everything and we just couldn’t score,” Abilene Christian coach Joe Golding said. “I thought we had a few open looks that just didn’t go down and we obviously needed all those open looks to go down to have a chance to stay around.”

Forward Zach Smith scored a season-high 16 to lead four players in double figures for Texas Tech (11-1). Forward Zhaire Smith came off the bench to add 14 points, and guard Keenan Evans and forward Justin Gray each finished with 11.

Forward Hayden Howell and guard Tevin Foster each scored nine to lead Abilene Christian (8-5).

The Wildcats forced Texas Tech into nine turnovers in the first half and the Red Raiders made just 1 of 6 3-pointers before the break. But Texas Tech coach Chris Beard wasn’t concerned about his team’s seemingly uneven performance on the offensive end.

“I thought we were dialed in,” Beard said. “We got some good baskets off the pick-and-roll game. Motion was good to us. We had to break a press tonight and we had a couple of high level zone possessions.”

Texas Tech led by 15 at halftime and stretched it to 24 with an 11-4 spurt midway through the second half. The Red Raiders’ defense kept the Wildcats from chipping away at the margin.

Texas Tech went five minutes in the middle of the first half without a field goal. But the Red Raiders made up for it by holding Abilene Christian to 15 points at the break and kept the Wildcats to 16 percent shooting in the first half.

“It first started off with just being aggressive, paying attention to the scouting report on certain players and forcing them into our right situation for the defense and try to cause a turnover or tough shot,” Gray said. “I feel like we were rotating very well, especially when they were driving, making sure we had each other’s backs.”

Zach Smith drove into the lane and threw down a two-handed dunk to give Texas Tech a 15-2 lead with 12:59 left until the break.

But Abilene Christian stiffened on defense after that and cut the deficit to seven when Howell completed a three-point play at the 8:58 mark.

Texas Tech finished the first half on an 8-0 run to take a 30-15 edge to the break. Zhaire Smith punctuated the strong finish to the first half by slamming home a follow dunk off a Jarrett Culver miss.

“Texas Tech’s really good,” Golding said. “There’s no question that’s the best team we’ve played in non-conference. I think our non-conference schedule has been pretty good, but that was a whole different level.”

The Red Raiders open Big 12 play when they host Baylor on Dec. 29.

Abilene Christian begins Southland Conference action at New Orleans on Thursday.

NOTES: This was the first meeting between Texas Tech and Abilene Christian since the Wildcats rejoined the Southland Conference at the start of the 2013-14 season. The Red Raiders won the last meeting between the two schools, 93-59 on Dec. 2, 1957. Texas Tech has a 23-12 lead in the series with Abilene Christian. ... The Wildcats were playing their first game against a Big 12 opponent this season. ... The last time Abilene Christian played a ranked opponent, No. 19 Kansas handed the Wildcats an 84-72 defeat on Dec. 8, 1984 in Lawrence, Kan.

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