Provided by Texas Tech Athletics
LUBBOCK, Texas - Zach Smith turned in his first career double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds as the Texas Tech men's basketball team grinded out a 65-53 win over previously undefeated Little Rock en route to its eight consecutive victory Tuesday at the United Supermarkets Arena.
For Smith, he garnered 10 of his team-leading 12 points and hauled down nine of his game-leading 12 rebounds in the opening half. He was an efficient 6-of-9 from the floor and equaled a season's best with three blocks over his 37 minutes of action. Smith has piled up 10 rejections over his last five outings.
Toddrick Gotcher and Keenan Evans did the heavy lifting for the Red Raiders during the second half and combined for 13 of their 21 points. Gotcher finished with 12 points highlighted by a 5-for-6 clip at the free throw line whereas Evans came away with nine points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Texas Tech (9-1) was the beneficiary of a pair of late runs to close the half. The Red Raiders tallied the final seven points over the final 2:40 of the first half and followed that up with an 11-3 spurt over the last three minutes of the game to tuck away the 12-point win.
Tech came away with all nine of the game's second-chance points and held an 18-11 scoring edge in points off turnovers. The Red Raiders have won the points off turnovers battle in nine of 10 games on the season.
"It was a hard fought game, we knew it would be," Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith said. "The intensity level was raised. There were a lot of story lines, so we wanted to make sure we were keeping our guys focused. I want to give a lot of credit to our team for staying poised. Little Rock does a great job, and we couldn't really pull away from them until the very end. I thought our guys did some great things down the stretch to get the win today."
Justin Gray was Tech's top performer off the bench with eight points and four rebounds, while Aaron Ross chipped in five points and three rebounds. The Red Raiders also received three points and a career-best five rebounds courtesy of Devon Thomas.
Devaugntah Williams provided eight points, and it marked only the second time this season where Williams was held to under 10 points. Norense Odiase picked up six points but was limited to only nine minutes of court time due to foul trouble.
Texas Tech connected on 21-of-49 from the field, 4-of-15 from three-point territory and 19-of-30 at the free throw line. The Red Raiders collected a 39-23 rebounding advantage and have outrebounded their opponents by double digits in back-to-back games.
Little Rock (10-1) entered today's game as one of the six undefeated teams remaining in the nation. Marcus Johnson Jr., and Josh Hagins pumped in 14 points apiece. Johnson, the Trojans leading scorer, was bottled up for two points on four shot attempts during the second 20 minutes.
The Trojans pieced together a 19-for-48 shooting effort and misfired on 18 of their 23 three-point attempts. Little Rock was 0-for-10 from beyond the three-point arc in the second half. The Trojans knocked down 10-for-15 at the charity stripe.
"I loved the way we came out in the second half," Smith said. "We mentioned that their three-point shooting was at 38 percent. We had to shut them down. Then, they went 0-for-10 during the second half. That tells me that our guys are tuned in and understood the adjustments we needed to make at halftime. Against a good team like Little Rock, you need to find the opportunities when they present themselves."
Ahead 51-48 at the 3:51 mark of the second half, Evans dialed up a deep three-ball from the right wing late in the shot clock to extend the Tech lead to six.
Following a Little Rock basket, Gotcher drained a pair of free throws and buried an 18-foot stepback jumper with the shot clock expiring to make it 58-50 with 2:27 to go.
Smith rejected a Hagins layup attempt, and Gray went diving out-of-bounds to save possession for the Red Raiders. Gray capitalized on the extra opportunity and found Ross for a deep two-pointer on the left baseline to push the Tech lead to 60-50 with 1:45 remaining. Gotcher and Evans sank 5-of-8 at the foul line over the closing 89 seconds to cap the 12-point win.
"We didn't know if he (Gray) was going to play today," Smith said. "That's his character. He has no hesitation about diving for the ball and making those hustle plays. He had eight points in 18 minutes, it was huge ... We had to overcome a few things during this game. We got great play out of Zach Smith. He came ready to play from the minute the ball was tipped. Thank goodness he came ready to play."
Texas Tech came out firing on all cylinders and rattled home eight of its opening nine shot attempts to build a 19-8 lead during the opening five minutes.
All five starters secured points in the opening flurry. Odiase hit a midrange jumper and used an up-and-under move for a layup. Williams and Gotcher canned triples whereas Evans contributed a traditional three-point play. Smith tacked on an acrobatic tipin and a highlight reel slam to close out the run.
Little Rock turned the tables and eventually captured a 31-28 edge with 3:36 left. Johnson got going with 12 points sparked by a pair of treys. The Red Raiders answered with a 7-0 finishing kick to snatch a 35-31 edge going into the locker room. Smith fueled the run getting a friendly bounce on a midrange jumper and getting a tipin off an Evans miss.
The two teams stayed between one possession of each other for a majority of the second half before Tech closed out the win with 11 of the last 14 points down the stretch.
"I think it's going to help us out a lot," Gotcher said. "In the close games where we come together, communicate in our mini huddles and just talk to each other, it makes it easier on us. I think in the Big 12 that will be what really keeps us together. Coach (Smith) does a really good job of making sure we are always together and respecting each other."