By Ken Cross
Texas Tech coach Chris Beard passes kudos to all of those around the program for the Red Raiders’ 13-1 start and he is not short on praise for former coach Tubby Smith, now at Memphis. Beard has noted that Smith and his staff recruited the group of six seniors that have staked the Red Raiders to that 13-1 mark and a 2-0 record in the Big 12 after last night’s 85-73 win over Kansas in Phog Allen Field House.
For Texas Tech, it was a signature win on what could be a really special season as the Red Raiders are among the suitors lining up to knock the Jayhawks off the Big 12 throne where they have amassed 13 consecutive regular season titles.
“It starts with just winning a game in this league,” said Beard, “It’s so hard to win games in the Big 12, and it’s extra hard to win on the road, so it starts with that. To say anything different than this would be wrong, it’s a special win because of how much respect we have for this program.”
Respect is a two-way street and Texas Tech has built tons with a rotation of about 10 players that play a lightning quick and aggressive brand of basketball on both ends of the floor. They are led by guard Keenan Evans, who kenpom.com ranks as the No. 8 overall player in the nation and he led five Red Raiders in double figures as he and backcourt mate Justin Gray did an excellent job in running the Texas Tech attack with 15 and 12 points each.
“They were by far the best team,” noted Kansas coach Bill Self, “They were better coached, they were more prepared, they were tougher, they were faster. It was a beat down. I do not know if it was a 12-point game because it felt like more to me.”
Texas Tech led from wire-to-wire and received impactful contributions for a pair of Beard’s freshmen in Zaire Smith and Jarrett Culver. Smith came in averaging 10.7 points per game and then shooting 62.9 percent from the field as Culver has averaged double figures as well at 10.5 ppg. Culver has also helped Texas Tech raise the bar as well with his quickness in getting deflections and steals.
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“We kept telling our guys at timeouts, ‘We’re down six, we’re down seven,'” said Beard, “At halftime I said, ‘We’re down nine. We’ve got to win this half by 10 to win,’ all the way to the end. Even late, I was telling Jarrett Culver, our freshman, ‘Hey, we’re down six,’ and he came over to me and he said, ‘Coach, there’s 30 seconds left in the game. We’re not down six.’ But that’s an impressive thing. Give our players all the credit.”
Smith and Culver both scored in double figures with 11 and 12 points, respectively, while playing big minutes at an efficient peak in one of college basketball’s toughest venues.
The Red Raiders were by far the more aggressive team as they were active on the glass for the full 40 minutes in out rebounding the Jayhawks, 44-29 in scoring 15 points off 18 offensive rebounds. As this continues to be one of the tougher defensive teams with it’s depth, The Red Raiders score 25 points on 15 Jayhawks turnovers.
“It’s a great win for us,” said Evans, “We’re back to the drawing board tomorrow, you know, back at it with another game coming up soon. So, you have to move on, not celebrate this one, don’t get too high. We take this one as a good win, but we’re on to the next one.”