Keenan Evans scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half, shooting 6-for-6 from the floor and 6-for-6 from the foul line in the process, as No. 3 Texas Tech survived a war against No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin, 70-60.
The Lumberjacks were in front for much of the first half and, after three straight three-balls to open up the second half, pushed that lead out to 39-31. That’s when Evans took over. He got into the lane at will, he settled the game down when the Red Raiders were rattled by SFA’s pressure and he calmly and cooly controlled the final 12 minutes of this game.
It was exactly the kind of performance you expect out of a guy that was the front runner for Big 12 Player of the Year on a team that had the inside track for the Big 12 regular season title when he injured his toe in a loss at Baylor on Feb. 17th.
Evans and his perfect second half were spectacular, but Texas Tech’s defense was the co-star in the Red Raiders’ survival.
The Lumberjacks didn’t make a shot for more than the last 5 minutes of the game and were outscored by Texas Tech 15-3 down the way to see their upset hopes get chopped down.
While it’s a formula that can be a grind and induce closer-than-expected results, pairing a bucket-getter like Evans and a defense as stout as Texas Tech can be a recipe for March wins.
The Red Raiders’ offense is dependent on Evans – and awesome Zhaire Smith dunks to a lesser extent – and it moves at a plodding pace. If things get off-kilter on that end, it gets ugly quick for Texas Tech’s offense. If Evans can just go and put points on the board, though, the offense is usually just good enough to win.
It doesn’t have to be great because their defense is. The Red Raiders’ field-goal percentage defense is top-notch, and not only do opponents shoot a low percent from distance on them, they just don’t get up many 3s as well. They force turnovers and are solid enough on the glass.
Just look at what SFA went through in the final 5 minutes. The Lumberjacks were harassed and corralled every trip down the floor. They lived a miserable offensive life in the last minutes.
Texas Tech may have a narrow path to victory – Evans has to be right and the defense has to be suffocating – but it’s one they’re capable of replicating night in and night out. It’s not always pretty, but it’s often very effective.