No. 24 Texas Tech shuts down Rice
LUBBOCK, Texas -- Rice put a scare into No. 24 Texas Tech on throwback night, but the Red Raiders responded with good old-fashioned defense.
Texas Tech pressured Rice into 26 turnovers and the Red Raiders turned them into 34 points on the other end on the way to a 73-53 victory on Saturday at Lubbock Municipal Coliseum.
The Red Raiders donned throwback uniforms worn by the 1995-96 team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 and played in their former arena against a former Southwest Conference opponent.
Rice joined in, giving Texas Tech a battle like in the SWC days until Texas Tech stretched out a lead in the second half.
Keenan Evans threw down an emphatic dunk on an assist from Jarrett Culver, bringing the home crowd to its feet and boosting the Red Raiders (9-1) to a double-digit lead for the first time with 12:27 left in the second half.
Evans scored 13 points to lead Texas Tech. Forward Zhaire Smith added 12, and forward Zach Smith and guard Niem Stevenson each finished with 10.
Guard Connor Cashaw led Rice with 21 points, but he was the only player to score in double figures for the Owls (3-8).
Rice cut Texas Tech’s lead to seven when forward Malik Osborne hit two free throws with 8:16 left.
The Red Raiders responded immediately with a 13-4 run, highlighted by an Evans pass off the backboard to Zhaire Smith for a dunk to put the Red Raiders ahead by 16.
“I told him off the glass, but I thought he would probably dunk it,” Smith said. “He passed it. That was an unselfish play by him.”
The Owls hit three of their first four shots from 3-point range to grab an early 9-4 lead.
Rice then surged ahead 21-13 when guard Najja Hunter went into the lane for a layup with 11:01 left.
“To win here against that team, we had to play close to perfect,” Rice coach Scott Pera said. “I thought we played very, very hard and very well for a long time.”
Texas Tech’s defense clamped down after Hunter’s layup and held Rice without a field goal for the final 11 minutes of the half.
The Red Raiders shot 36 percent from the field in the first half, but their defense helped them put together a 14-1 run.
Texas Tech claimed a five-point lead, its largest of the first 20 minutes, when Evans hit a 3-pointer with 3:57 left before the break.
”Our defense really kept us in the game in the first half,“ Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. ”We couldn’t make shots. We weren’t getting to the free-throw line. We weren’t playing very well offensively.
“I told the guys, ‘Keep being aggressive, keep being confident and I’ll make a prediction, we’ll shoot the ball pretty good in the second half,’ and we did.”
The Owls held the Red Raiders to two points the rest of the half and Rice hit four free throws to keep Texas Tech’s lead to 29-25 at halftime.
Cashaw scored 11 points in the first 20 minutes and was the only player on either team in double figures at the break. Guard Davide Moretti came off the bench to lead Texas Tech with eight points at halftime.
As Beard predicted, Texas Tech shot 63 percent in the second half to finish the game at 49 percent.
“It’s always a concern when we aren’t in a rhythm offensively,” Zach Smith said. “But you know it’s a long game and it’s a game of runs, so you’ve just got to keep level-headed.”
NOTES: Texas Tech hosted the game at Lubbock Municipal Coliseum, the program’s home from 1956 to 1999. The Red Raiders moved into their current venue, the United Supermarkets Arena, at the start of the 1999-2000 season. ... Rice owns just one win against a Division I opponent this season, having defeated Northwestern State 87-65 on Nov. 17. Rice also won games against NAIA St. Thomas and NCAA Division II St. Edward‘s. ... Texas Tech was playing its second of three straight games against opponents with Owl mascots. The Red Raiders defeated Kennesaw State 82-53 on Wednesday and will play the Florida Atlantic Owls on Tuesday.