LUBBOCK, Texas – Another strong defensive effort carried the No. 21 Texas Tech men's basketball team to a 74-47 win over Abilene Christian Friday afternoon at the United Supermarkets Arena during its final tune-up prior to Big 12 play.
The Red Raiders (11-1) had four players score in double figures and held the Wildcats (8-5) to under 30 percent shooting as a team. Texas Tech extended their nonconference home winning streak to 38 consecutive games which is the fifth-longest streak in the nation.
"Tonight, I thought we were dialed in," Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. "We had good baskets off of the pick-and-roll game. The motion was good to us. We had to break a press tonight, and we had a couple high-level zone possessions. I think the quicker the game slows down for our young guys, the more we can execute of offense each possession and the better we will be. I felt comfortable with our offense tonight. Nine turnovers in the first half is way too many, but give ACU a lot of credit. We came back in the second half, and we had four turnovers. One was a questionable call from where I was sitting. That's the kind of offensive basketball we want to play."
Zach Smith led all scorers with a season-high 16 points on an efficient 7-of-8 shooting to go along with six rebounds and an assist. He is now just 20 points away from becoming the 41st member of Texas Tech's 1,000 points club.
Zhaire Smith added 14 points off the bench and reached double figures for the seventh consecutive game. He hauled down three of his five rebounds on the offensive end coupled with two blocks and a steal.
Justin Gray had one of his best all-around performances of the season with a season's best 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting which included a three-pointer. He cashed in on all four of his attempts at the free throw stripe. He chipped in three rebounds and handed out three assists.
Keenan Evans poured in 11 points on 4-of-5 from the bench. Coming off the bench for the first time this season, he has now reached double figures in 11 of 12 games. Evans also finished with two rebounds and an assist.
Jarrett Culver got his second straight start and responded by filling the box score with eight points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Texas Tech splashed home 25-of-49 from the field, hit on six of its seven three's in the second half and amassed 17 of the game's 20 points off turnovers. The Red Raiders also piled up a 38-25 advantage in bench points and a 28-20 edge in paint points.
Texas Tech limited ACU to just an 18-for-61 shooting clip en route to a 29.5 percentage. The Wildcats misfired on 16 of their 20 three-point attempts but were a flawless 7-for-7 on free throws.
ACU was led by Tevin Foster and Hayden Howell who registered nine points apiece. The Wildcats' top scorer, Jalone Friday, was bottled up for four points on 1-of-6 shooting.
Texas Tech opened the game with a 16-2 run behind six early points from Gray and a defensive effort that limited the Wildcats to just one bucket through the first nine minutes of action.
After ACU narrowed the gap to seven at 17-10 with 8:58 left, the Red Raiders pushed the lead back to 12 points with a 5-0 spurt capped off by an Evans alley-oop to Zach Smith to make it 22-10 at the 4:17 mark.
A put-back slam from Zhaire Smith inside the closing 20 seconds pushed Texas Tech's spread to 30-15 at the half. The Red Raiders defense held ACU to just five field goals on under 17 percent shooting during the opening 20 minutes. ACU's 15 first-half points marked its lowest output for a half since its third game of the 2015-16 season.
The Red Raiders extended the lead to 57-36 with 11:17 to go off a press breaker. Niem Stevenson threaded the needle with a bounce pass to a cutting Justin Gray for a slam. The lead swelled to 24 moments later as Gray connected on a three from the left wing, his first of the season, to put him in double figures.
Culver, Brandone Francis and Parker Hicks all banged home triples during the final 2:11 to help Texas Tech to the finish line and the 27-point win.
"Overall, you want your team to get better," Beard said "There are some mathematical things and you have to win enough games to be in the conversation for the NCAA Tournament here in a couple months. We've done that. You want to get your young guys experience, and we've done that. You want to get your veterans comfortable. For example, Zach (Smith) has a great game today, and that's great. Above all, you want your team to improve. I think we played better defense today than we did against South Alabama. I thought we executed the offense better than we did against Maine. We're getting better. Whether it's enough to compete in this league is yet to be determined, but we are excited about the challenge. Baylor is a premiere program. The consistency they've had the last few years during Coach Drew's tenure speaks for itself. They have the kind of program we're trying to build here in a lot of ways. Why not start with one of the best teams in the country on opening night? We're excited about the challenge."
Texas Tech will return from the holiday break for its Big 12 opener against No. 18 Baylor next Friday at the United Supermarkets Arena. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. CT, and the game will be televised by FOX College Sports.
Fans can purchase two tickets for $15 to the Baylor game as part of the Wreck The Halls holiday special which runs through Sunday exclusively at www.TexasTech.com. Fans also can take advantage of the Red Raider 4-Pack which includes admission to four Big 12 games excluding the Kansas game for just $55.
Visit www.TexasTech.com for the latest news and information on the men's basketball program. Fans also can follow the program on its social media outlets by liking TexasTechMBB on Facebook along with following @TexasTechMBB on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.