LUBBOCK, Texas – The Texas Tech men’s basketball team continue to grind after being handed consecutive one-point defeats, and the Red Raiders were rewarded for its hard work with an 84-78 win over No. 4 Baylor Monday at the United Supermarkets Arena.
The Red Raiders (17-9, 5-8 Big 12) toppled their third ranked opponent at home this season and have won five of their last six decisions versus ranked foes at home dating back to last season. The loss sent Baylor (22-4, 9-4 Big 12) two games behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings.
Texas Tech has defeated a pair of Associated Press Top 10 opponents in No. 7 West Virginia and No. 4 Baylor this season for the first time since 2007-08 when the Red Raiders knocked off No. 10 Texas A&M and No. 5 Texas.
“I thought we played better without the ball in the second half,” Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. “A lot of our layups tonight came on curl cuts or back cuts. That was our guys playing without the ball. The nights that we play good with the ball, we’re good. Some nights when we play better without it, we’re good. If we can ever get to where we play with it and without it, five guys playing offense together, we’ll [be good]. We scored 52 points [in one half] against one of the best defensive teams in college basketball. If we can do that, I think we can compete with anybody on our schedule.”
Once again, Keenan Evans and Niem Stevenson led the way with a pair of 20-point performances. Justin Gray collected his second career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The trio accounted for 36 of their combined 57 points during the second half.
Evans pumped in 23 points and four assists to extend his run to 14 straight games in double figures fueled by three consecutive 20-point performances. He has garnered six of his eight career games of 20 or more points this season. Evans was 5-of-10 from the floor and connected on 11-of-14 at the foul line.
Stevenson worked his way to 21 points, six rebounds and a Big 12 season’s best five assists against zero turnovers over his 34 minutes of action. He has turned in double digit points in five of his last six games aided by back-to-back games of 20-plus points.
Gray was an effective and efficient 4-of-6 shooting and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe en route to his 13 points. He also registered five of his 10 rebounds on the offensive end. Texas Tech has won nine of 10 games when Gray notches 10-plus points.
Zach Smith added 11 points, while Aaron Ross regained his rhythm with eight points off the bench. Devon Thomas and Anthony Livingston tucked away three points apiece.
Texas Tech buried 24-for-47 on its field goal attempts and hit on 6-for-15 from beyond the three-point arc. The Red Raiders drained 13 of their 21 shots en route to a season-high 52 points during the second 20 minutes. Texas Tech also took advantage of a 30-for-43 effort at the free throw line and battled on the glass to neutralize the Big 12’s leading rebounding team to only a 29-28 rebounding edge.
Baylor converted on 27-of-60 from the field and knocked down 7-of-27 on three-pointers. The Bears made 17-of-25 of their free throw attempts and scored 32 of the game’s 45 bench points.
A big factor in the bench points advantage for Baylor was Terry Maston who exploded for a career-high 22 points. Manu Lecomte tacked on 16 points followed by Johnathan Motley and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. who chipped in 11 points apiece. Motley, a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate, didn’t score his first points until the 18-minute mark of the second half.
The Red Raiders came thundering out of the gates and opened up a 14-2 advantage during the opening 4:20 off the clock.
Stevenson broke the ice with a layup and a midrange jumper coupled with a Livingston jump hook in the lane. Then, Smith rattled home a three-pointer on the left wing, and Evans capped the early flurry with a midrange jumper followed by a trey at the top of the key.
Baylor crept back into the game and knotted the score at 26-26 with 5:34 remaining on a Lecomte jumper. The Bears put together a strong finishing kick with five quick points in a 41-second span to grab a 36-32 lead heading into the locker room.
Baylor stretched its advantage to as many as nine points and carried a 59-53 spread at the 9:01 mark courtesy of a Maston jumper.
Texas Tech turned the tables and ripped off 16 of the next 28 points over a 3:53 span to wipe away the six-point hole into an eight-point lead. The Red Raiders would catch fire and sink 10 of their last 13 field goals of the game.
Gray ignited the charge with a hustle play as he followed his free throw miss with an offensive rebound and layup. The Red Raiders drew even at 61-61 on a Thomas traditional three-point play off a driving layup with 7:08 left.
After an Evans free throw gave Texas Tech the lead, Evans would find Ross for three-ball on the left wing to push the score to 65-61. Then, Evans took the ball hard to the rim and hit a contested layup. Ross put the final touches on the run with a layup off a curl play to make it 69-61 with 4:59 to go.
Baylor would get as close as four points at 82-78 with 18 seconds on the clock after a Jake Lindsey trey. The Red Raiders would salt away the six-point win on the strength of an 8-for-12 clip at the foul line in the closing minute.
“That (the Ross three-pointer) was big,” Beard said. “Just like Ross said, ‘As a shooter, you have to see that ball go through the net’. It picks up other parts of your game, too. The thing about Ross is he’s got this laid back demeanor. I don’t want our fans to ever interpret him as being lazy or not caring. That’s not Ross at all. Ross is the most emotional guy in our locker room. He wants to win so badly for this school. To me, he should be a Texas Tech hero. He’s been here for five years and has played for four different coaches. He’s had plenty of chances to leave, but he’s stayed here. If there’s ever been a guy who has been more loyal to Texas Tech basketball, it’s Aaron Ross. He cares. It was within 30 minutes of the Kansas game, and he was back in the gym. I think he made 700 shots Saturday night after the game. That’s a little bit of a glimpse behind Aaron Ross and of who he is.”
Texas Tech travels to No. 13 West Virginia on Saturday to complete a stretch against the top three teams in the Big 12 standings. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT, and the game will be televised by ESPN2 along with being available on the Watch ESPN app.
Story Courteous of Texas Tech