WACO, Texas – The No. 7 Texas Tech men’s basketball team put forth a valiant effort playing without its leading scorer Keenan Evans during the second half, but Baylor closed the game with six consecutive points to snatch a 59-57 decision on Saturday at the Ferrell Center.
The Red Raiders (22-5, 10-4 Big 12) are in a first-place tie with 13-time defending regular season Kansas after Saturday’s action. Texas Tech had its seven-game overall winning streak and its program-best six-game Big 12 run come to a close. The Bears (17-10, 7-7 Big 12) made it five consecutive wins which include their last two by a combined three points.
“I just want to congratulate Baylor on a good Big 12, protect your home court win,” Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. “I got a lot of respect for Coach Drew and the program he has ran here over many years. The consistency he has speaks for itself. I thought Baylor played really hard. We were trying with our defense to speed them up a little bit, but they had a low turnover game. I think shows a lot about their guard play, ball handling and really coaching. I thought Terry Maston was the best player on the floor today. Congratulations for him, that’s back to back all-conference type games for him. We always recognize when other players play well. For my point of view, we wish we would have played better. 18 turnovers is way too many. I take a lot of that responsibility myself as the coach, but you got to give Baylor credit. They were the ones who were making us turn it over.”
Zhaire Smith piled up 15 points for his fifth straight game in double figures, while Justin Gray turned in a season’s best 13 points, eight rebounds and three steals. The Smith-Gray combo knocked down 11 of its 16 field goal attempts.
Tommy Hamilton IV secured six points, three rebounds and two steals whereas Norense Odiase notched five points, eight rebounds and two blocks on the interior.
Jarrett Culver added nine points, six rebounds and two steals. Brandone Francis picked up five points and two rebounds.
Evans came away with four points and three assists in the first half before being diagnosed with a toe injury.
As a team, Texas Tech was limited to a 20-of-51 shooting clip and misfired on 11 of its 14 three-point attempts. The Red Raiders were 14-of-18 at the free throw line and battled their way to a 38-34 rebounding advantage.
Baylor was 18-for-54 from the field, 3-for-13 from three-point territory and a 20-for-29 on foul shots. The Bears were able to force Texas Tech into 18 turnovers.
Terry Maston poured in a game-leading 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting followed by Manu Lecomte’s 10 points coupled with Jo Lual-Acuil Jr.’s seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
“He is kind of a mismatch guy,” Beard said. “You put a smaller, athletic guy on him and he’s big enough. He can get things done around the basket with his post game. Put a big guy on him, and he pops out. He hits jump shots tonight. He drives the ball. I like his demeanor. He is a guy where he is the end of his career, and he’s trying to play another day. I have coached guys like that. They find another level at this point in their career. Special things can happen. We have a lot of respect for him. I know he has battled some injuries throughout his career. He has been asked to do different roles, but he is playing great. He is playing like an all-conference player in the Big 12. When you put him in the mix with their other players, nobody is looking forward to playing the Baylor here in the next month.”
The Red Raiders grabbed a 57-53 edge on a deep trey from Francis late shot clock at the 3:00 mark. However, Texas Tech missed its last six shot attempts down the stretch.
Baylor took a 58-57 advantage on a Maston jump hook on the baseline with 1:26 left. The Bears blocked the next two shot attempts for the Red Raiders.
Texas Tech stole a possession after forcing a Baylor turnover on the press with 17 seconds to go. Culver missed a three-pointer, and the Bears made it a two-point game after Lual-Acuil Jr. split his free throws with 5.3 seconds.
Francis grabbed the rebound and raced down the floor. His off-balanced jumper came up short as the buzzer sound.
The Red Raiders trailed by as many as eight points in opening half. Smith split his free throws, and Gray buried a three-pointer off an inbounds play as time expired to bring Tech back to 35-31 at halftime.
Texas Tech continues its stretch of three of four and four of six games on the road at Oklahoma State on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT from Gallagher-Iba Arena. The game will be televised by ESPNU and the ESPN app.
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