LUBBOCK - Jarrett Culver poured in 12 of his game-high 20 points during the first half, and the No. 10 Texas Tech men’s basketball team continued its strong play to begin the month of February en route to an 83-71 victory over TCU on Saturday at Schollmaier Arena.
Texas Tech guard Jarrett Culver (23) tries to drive past TCU forward JD Miller (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
The Red Raiders (19-4, 7-3 Big 12) used an 18-0 run to break a 9-9 tie midway through the first half and doubled up TCU (16-7, 4-6 Big 12) by a 48-24 margin in the first half.
Texas Tech’s defense forced the Horned Frogs into 17 turnovers and picked up a 22-12 advantage in points off turnovers. The Red Raiders also held a 25-16 edge in bench points.
Texas Tech has won 19 of its 23 games for the third time in program history. The 1953-54 squad under Polk Robison also started 19-4, while the 1995-96 team under James Dickey compiled a 30-1 start sparked by a program-record 23-game winning streak.
The Red Raiders have already surpassed their overall and Big 12 win totals from a season ago and jumped into a first place tie in the Big 12 standings.
“I’m pleased to get another Big 12 win today,” Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. “These games are so hard to win even with all of the preparation that goes into them. The players have to play great, and you have to overcome adversity. All of those type of things went into today’s game. I thought we played great early and tried to hold on late. I’ll take responsibility for that from a coaching standpoint. Like in football, you are just trying to play prevent defense. It’s just hard. I am proud of our players today. The 17 assists means that we played unselfish basketball. We got to the free throw line. It’s good, not great, on the road. I’ve got a lot of respect for the TCU program and their players. We are pleased to win today.”
For Culver, it marked his third game of 20-plus points on the season. He was an efficient 5-of-7 shooting and knocked down a quartet of three-pointers. He also was flawless 6-of-6 on free throws. The Lubbock native handed out four assists and tacked on a season’s best three blocks.
Keenan Evans registered a balanced effort with 17 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals. He tallied 12 of his 17 points after halftime and has reached double figures in 21 of 23 games.
Zhaire Smith notched 12 points coupled with a season-high four blocks, three rebounds and two steals. The Red Raiders also received seven points apiece courtesy of Justin Gray, Davide Moretti and Niem Stevenson followed by Tommy Hamilton IV’s six points and Brandone Francis’ five points.
As a team, Texas Tech hit on 28-for-55 from the field and buried 10-for-22 on its three-point attempts. The Red Raiders sank 17-for-21 at the free throw line which included an 11-for-13 mark during the second half.
TCU turned in a 25-of-51 shooting performance and was 6-of-12 from three-point territory. The Horned Frogs were 15-of-24 at the foul line and managed a 31-27 rebounding advantage.
Three players dialed up double figures TCU headed by Vladimir Brodziansky’s 18 points. Kenrich Williams provided a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Desmond Bane totaled 13 points and four assists.
All square at 9-9 with 15:44 remaining in the first half, the Red Raiders pieced together 18 consecutive points over the next 4:43 off the clock. The 18 straight points was the longest run for Texas Tech since ripping off a season’s best 23 points versus Wofford on Nov. 22.
Stevenson began the flurry with an offensive putback in the lane through contact. Then, Hamilton IV drained a triple at the top of the key, was fouled and hit the free throw for the four-point play to make it 15-9 with 14:38 left.
Culver tacked on back-to-back treys 39 seconds apart to stretch the lead into double digit points. Stevenson got into the act with a deep three-ball of his own, while free throws from Gray and Moretti pushed the tally to 27-9 at the 11:01 mark.
Texas Tech went up by as many as 26 points during the opening stanza after piecing together a Hamilton IV turnaround jumper and Culver’s fourth triple of the half to bring the score to 44-18 with 2:56 to go.
Evans put the finishing touches on a 17-bucket first half for the Red Raiders when he went drove three quarters of the court and rattled home a 12-foot runner to give Texas Tech a 48-24 halftime spread. The 48 points were the program’s highest first half total during a Big 12 game under Beard.
The Red Raiders extended the lead out to 28 points after an Evans jumper and a Smith high-flying dunk from Evans on the lob inside the first minute of the second half.
TCU would chip away behind Brodziansky and Williams who teamed for 23 of their 28 points during the second 20 minutes.
Four consecutive Brodziansky free throws brought the Frogs back to 63-52 with 5:40 left. The Red Raiders answered behind a Culver driving dunk on the baseline after breaking the TCU press.
Culver would add on four free throws of his own, and Evans delivered a traditional three-point play off a driving left-handed layup to bring the lead back to 72-54 at the 4:34 mark.
TCU canned a trio of three-pointers and used two Brodziansky layups in the final three minutes to bring the final margin down to 12 points at 83-71.
“One thing that’s big for us is when we don’t turn the ball over,” Beard said. “I feel like we have a pretty good team with good talent, and we try to get our guys in positions to get good shots they can make. I think we had a three or four turnover half in the first which means we are going to get a shot on offense. That was a big part of us playing well early, no turnovers. I think defensively we were dialed in, and we did a good job guarding the ball screen for the most part. We made some mistakes in the second half, but that’s basketball. I thought we were aggressive on defense today.”