After a back-and-forth first half, the Texas Tech basketball team dominated the Utah State Aggies on Friday en route to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Sometimes, the game of basketball can be boiled down to simply making shots. But that proved difficult for the Texas Tech basketball team in the first half of Friday’s game with Utah State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Then the second half rolled around and Chris Beard’s team flipped a switch.
After trailing 26-23 at the break, the No. 6 seeded Red Raiders outscored No. 11 seed Utah State 42-27 in the second half on their way to a 65-53 win to move to Sunday’s second round where they will face No. 3 seed Arkansas. In that second 20 minutes of action, the Red Raiders would shoot 56.6% from the floor, a stark contrast to the 28.1% they shot in the game’s opening 20 minutes.
And after a scoreless first half, it was Terrence Shannon Jr. who ignited the game-defining 13-0 run that pushed the Red Raiders ahead for good. At the 16:24 mark of the second, the sophomore hit his first bucket of the day to pull Tech to within 31-27 and that seemed to get him going.
On his team’s next possession, Shannon would find Clarence Nadolny in transition for a bucket to cut the deficit to just three points. Then, he would hit a pair of jumpers on Tech’s next two possessions to push the Red Raiders in front 33-31.
Tech’s second-leading scorer would finish the day with 10 points (on 5-12 shooting) and three assists as he and his teammates simply overwhelmed Utah State an at-large team out of the Mountain West Conference. Mac McClung led the way with 16 points while Kyler Edwards scored 12 and Kevin McCullar contributed 10.
While the Red Raider offense found itself in the second half, the defense was spectacular throughout. Though Utah State would shoot 44% from the floor for the afternoon, 22 Aggie turnovers proved to be the downfall for head coach Craig Smith and his team. As a result, Tech (which had only 8 turnovers) would hoist 12 more shot attempts than their opponent and would score 28 points off of turnovers.
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The swarming Red Raiders successfully flustered the Utah State guards all afternoon and as a result, USU’s two star players were effectively held in check.
Averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds per game entering this contest, 7-foot Utah State center Neemias Queta was solid but far from dominant. Finishing the game with 11 points and 13 boards, he did block seven shots but he proved to be far from the unstoppable force that many so-called experts predicted he would be against the smaller Red Raider lineup.
Meanwhile, his frontcourt mate, Justin Bean, was able to put up a team-high 13 points and 8 rebounds (totals similar to his regular-season averages) but the former walk-on couldn’t keep his team in the game by overcoming the shortcomings of his team’s guards.
With the win, Chris Beard moves to 9-2 at Texas Tech in the NCAA Tournament and now takes his team to Sunday to face a Razorback team that is the complete stylistic opposite of the Red Raiders as the Hogs want to push the pace, press full-court, and try to run their opponent out of the gym. However, there is plenty of time for the Red Raider fans to worry about that game.
For now, we should enjoy the program’s thrid-straight NCAA Tournament with at least one win. And this win was rather satisfying given that many pundits were picking the Aggies to upset Tech in round one.
But those pundits might have forgotten just how good Chris Beard teams are in March. And in case they needed a reminder, the Red Raiders put on a second-half clinic to brush aside the Aggies and let everyone know that they will be the toughest of outs again this year. What’s more, this game is satisfying because people all across Raiderland, nothing is more enjoyable than beating a bunch of Aggies, even when they are wearing blue instead of maroon.