LUBBOCK, Texas – The Texas Tech men's basketball team used a strong second half effort and rolled to a 75-50 season opening victory over South Alabama during Friday's regional round of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament at the United Supermarkets Arena.
The Red Raiders had four players register in double figures headed by Zhaire Smith and Tommy Hamilton IV with 14 and 12 points, respectively. The duo knocked down 10 of their 13 shot attempts and combined for nine rebounds.
Keenan Evans filled the box score with 12 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists. The senior guard extended his streak to 21 consecutive games in doubles figures, the longest streak for a Texas Tech player since Martin Zeno accomplished the feat during the 2007-08 season. Evans also pulled to within 50 points of reaching 1,000 for his career.
"I just want to thank our fans tonight," Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. "I thought it was a good opening game crowd. The people that were here were very loud and enthusiastic – I felt a vibe in there. The players were commenting on it early and at halftime. I thought our students showed up about as well as I've seen for a first game so I'm just very appreciative of everybody that came to the game. We will build on this and try to increase the crowd as we go."
Davide Moretti registered all 10 of his points in the second 20 minutes during his career debut. He also handed out two assists and recorded two steals on the defensive end.
Justin Gray and Norense Odiase chipped in six points and three rebounds each, while Zach Smith added a career-high four steals coupled with four rebounds and three assists.
Brandone Francis picked up three points and team-leading six rebounds highlighted by three boards on the offensive end. Niem Stevenson came away with four points, three rebounds and two assists.
The 25-point victory enabled the Red Raiders to extend their winning streaks to 18 consecutive games in season openers since 1999-2000 and to 30 straight nonconference home victories dating back to the 2013-14 campaign.
Texas Tech drained 27-of-56 from the field which included a 5-of-20 clip from beyond the three-point line. The Red Raiders sank 16-of-22 at the free throw line. Tech controlled the interior play with a healthy 38-14 advantage in paint points and piled up 27 of the game's 34 points off turnovers.
The Jaguars were bottled up on a 14-for-46 shooting clip and a 7-for-20 mark on three-pointers. South Alabama struggled to a 15-for-30 effort from the charity stripe. Jordan Andrews led the way with 15 points for USA.
Texas Tech has limited an opponent to 50 or less points five times in 33 games under Beard. The Red Raiders also have emerged with 10 of their 11 nonconference home wins by 10-plus points during the Beard era.
Texas Tech went on a 10-1 spurt over the closing 2:52 of the first half to turn a one-point deficit into an eight-point advantage heading into the locker room.
Zhaire Smith kickstarted the flurry with a three ball from the top of the key followed by a transition layup where he was intentionally fouled. After splitting the free throws, Keenan Evans converted on a layup to make it 34-27 with 2:13 to go.
Stevenson provided the final bucket of the half with a two-handed slam off a nice feed from a driving Zhaire Smith.
Texas Tech stretched its lead into double figures at 44-34 during the opening five minutes of the second half. Moretti buried back-to-back triples within 33 seconds.
The Red Raiders continued their push and went up 61-40 at the 7:57 mark on a traditional three-point play courtesy of Evans.
Andrew Sorrells put the finishing touches on the opening victory when he knocked a three-pointer on the right wing off a crosscourt pass from Francis.
"[Moretti] and [Smith] are talented freshmen," Beard said. "I put (Jarrett) Culver in the same category, and Malik was recruited by a lot of schools around the country. They chose Texas Tech for many reasons – one of those knowing they could play early in their career as we build the program. Those guys have embraced the idea of playing early, and they have grown up a lot."