MIDLAND, Texas – The Texas Tech men’s basketball team picked up an 84-54 victory over New Mexico State during a Hurricane Relief exhibition game to benefit the Greater Houston Community Foundation on Sunday at the Chaparral Center on the Midland College campus.
“I want to thank New Mexico State for playing in the game, and I want to thank all the fans that came out today in Midland,” Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. “All of the proceeds will go to Hurricane relief and the victims. It’s a cause that is dear to all of us. I don’t think that was anyone in America that wasn’t affected by the hurricanes the last couple of months myself included. It was a special day for a special cause.”
The quartet of Justin Gray, Niem Stevenson, Zach Smith and Zhaire Smith secured 45 points and were near perfect 16-of-17 shooting.
Zhaire Smith headlined the group with 10 of his team-leading 13 points coming during the opening 20 minutes. He also dished out three assists. Where it was Zhaire Smith in the first half, Niem Stevenson ripped off all 11 of his points in the second half. He also chipped in a team-high four assists and two steals. Zach Smith secured 12 points, three rebounds and two blocks, while Justin Gray added nine points.
The Red Raiders also received nine points courtesy of Jarrett Culver on a trio of three’s. Keenan Evans tacked on seven points, three rebounds and two steals whereas Brandone Francis and Malik Ondigo came away with four points each.
The Red Raiders had 15 of their 16 players who saw action score points. Davide Moretti notched three points and three assists. Andrew Sorrells, Parker Hicks and Alex Vilarino capped the scoring with two points apiece.
Texas Tech faced a 10-2 deficit at the 17:28 mark of the first half and turned to its bench for a spark. The Red Raiders responded with 27 of the next 33 points over the next 10 minutes off the clock.
Moretti ignited the charge with a 6-foot floater off a pump fake in the lane. Then, Zhaire Smith drove to the basket and scored off the glass. He was fouled and hit the free throw for the traditional three-point play to make it 10-7.
Culver continued the flurry with the first of his three triples, and Zhaire Smith gave Texas Tech the advantage at 14-13 with 14:08 left after another bucket and a pair of free throws.
The Red Raiders stretched the lead to 24-16 with 11:02 to go and finished a stretch of points on eight consecutive possession with a Zach Smith dunk off an offensive rebound, a Gray layup in transition from Stevenson and an Evans dunk off a Stevenson steal.
“First of all, it was as bad of a start that we could have had,” Beard said. “You give New Mexico State a lot of that credit. They played harder than us and started the game better than us. That was disappointing and probably the biggest negative from today’s 40 minutes. We’ll have to go back and study it and fix it. Our seniors did a great job of embracing it and holding each other accountable. They were great teammates on the bench when the other guys came in and got us going. I thought that was a really good thing for us to see those guys (Jarrett) Culver, Z (Zhaire Smith) and Moro (Moretti) get the game turned around for us.”
Texas Tech would carry a 39-27 advantage into the locker room as Culver buried a trey on the left wing off a crosscourt feed from Josh Webster.
The Red Raiders stayed in front by double figures for the entire second half and moved the lead to 20 points at 50-30 when Zhaire Smith drove baseline and found Norense Odiase for a layup at the 15:54 mark.
Texas Tech ballooned the advantage over 30 points at 71-40 with 6:52 remaining on a Francis three-ball from the right baseline. The Red Raiders closed out the win on a Hicks driving layup, a Sorrells dunk from Webster on an alley-oop play and a pair of Vilarino free throws.
Texas Tech knocked down 28-for-53 from the field and a 5-for-15 ratio on three-pointers. The Red Raiders sank 23-for-29 on their free throw attempts. Tech dominated the interior play and amassed 40 of the game’s 50 points in the paint.
The Aggies, coming off a 28-win campaign and a NCAA Tournament trip, were limited to an 18-of-52 shooting clip which included a 10-of-30 mark from three-point territory. New Mexico State hit on 8-of-12 at the free throw line but were forced into 24 turnovers which turned into 39 Texas Tech points. Sidy N’Dir tallied 16 points sparked by a quartet of three-pointers to lead the Aggies.
Texas Tech starts its 2017-18 season versus South Alabama as part of the regional round of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament. Friday’s tip time is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT with the game being televised by FOX College Sports and the FOX Sports Go app. John Harris and Chris Level will serve as the announcing team.
The Texas Tech Sports Network will carry the game live on its flagship station Double T 97.3 FM in Lubbock. Geoff Haxton and Clark Lammert will have the call. The radio broadcast also will be available on the Texas Tech Sports Network radio affiliates, online at www.TexasTech.com and the TuneIn Radio app. Fans can interact live with Friday’s broadcast by following @GunsUpRadio on Twitter.