LUBBOCK, Texas – Jarrett Culver led Texas Tech with 16 points, Tariq Owens had six blocks and Matt Mooney contributed 12 points and six assists to help lead the Red Raiders to an 87-37 season-opening win over Incarnate Word on Tuesday at the United Supermarkets Arena.
Texas Tech (1-0) held UIW (0-1) to only seven points in the second half with the Cardinals being limited to shooting 3-for-30 from the field and 0-for-9 on 3-pointers. With the defense putting on pressure, the Red Raider offense knocked down six 3-pointers and shot 19-for-30 (63.3 percent) to post the largest season-opening win since a 119-55 win over UNC-Ashville to begin the 2003-04 season. The Red Raiders have now won 19-straight season openers and extended their non-conference home winning streak to 39 games.
Culver shot 6-for-10 from the field with two 3-pointers for his team-leading 16 points and also added four assists, while Owens was only one blocked shot away from matching the Texas Tech program record of seven set by Will Flemons in 1990 against Texas A&M. Owens, a graduate transfer from St. John’s, is coming off a season where he had 94 blocks and now has 185 in his career. His career-high is eight last year in a game against Georgetown and he is now one of nine players in Texas Tech history to have six or more blocks in a game.
Brandone Francis would add 13 points and five rebounds for the Red Raiders in the first game of his senior season after having two 3-pointers, and freshman Kyler Edwards gave Tech four double-digit scorers when he hit a shot with 4:34 to play to give him 10 points in his debut. Mooney and Francis led the team with three steals each, while Davide Moretti added nine points and three assists. Moretti started the game with a lob pass to Owens for a dunk on the opening possession and then drilled a 3-pointer on the next trip down the court. The Red Raiders started the season on a 9-0 run to start the game before UIW kept it close throughout the opening half. Culver would hit a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining in the opening half as Tech took a 39-30 lead into the locker room.
Edwards led Texas Tech at halftime with eight points, while Mooney, Culver and Moretti each had seven. The Red Raiders, who started the game on the 9-0 run, shot 55.6 percent in the first half.
A nine-point advantage at halftime would turn into a 50-point win for the Red Raiders with the combination of a strong shooting performance and stifling defense over the final 20 minutes. Texas Tech opened the second half on a 17-2 run that started on an Owens dunk like in the first half and included two 3-pointers from Culver and one from Francis as the lead grew to 56-32 with 15:13 remaining in the game. Another run, this time a 15-0 one, saw 3s from Moretti and Francis along with a dunk by senior Norense Odiase who finished with a team-high six rebounds and added four points.
Texas Tech will return to action at 8 p.m. on Friday against Mississippi Valley State in its second of three home games to begin the season at the United Supermarkets Arena. The Red Raiders are now 34-4 in home games with Beard as head coach.
On the offensive surge in the second half:
“First of all, if you noticed, it started on defense. We kind of held it up back at halftime and coach talked to us about it. We just brought a whole other intensity. Then the floor had a couple steals and things got going defensively. That is what started for us.”
On how steals and blocks energized the team:
“He gets us going, we need Norense Odiase to be a tough defender, especially myself. “I got your back, I got your back. I stay low and I think Odiase got way better defensively and he’s trying. I’m proud of him.”
On having six blocks in tonight’s game:
“We did a good job as a team. Everybody is flying around, and it makes things easier. Speeding the defense up, it makes my job easier and you see me coming. It is easier for me to get there.”
On TTU’s defensive helping Owens play tonight:
“It gave us energy. Centers down the floor, flying. A lot of plays with a lot of balls. You know, send us down to transition. Plays like that give us energy. Getting steals, getting blocks, it’s all the energy and effort plays that will have things right.”
On Owens response to continuously record high blocking numbers:
“Yeah, because it’s hard getting blocks like that. It’s so easy to get caught. Like the one where he dunked it, it’s easy to get called on plays like that. It definitely surprises sometimes, but it’s all in the fun of the game.”
Coach Chris Beard opening statement:
“I just want to first recognize our crowd right off the bat. I was just really impressed. I think this is my thirteenth year at Tech if I am not mistaken, and this was one of the best opening games I have ever seen. I want to thank the season ticket holders, hopefully this 90% deal is going to work and then our student body really came out. I want to thank our students. We can’t say thank you enough. There was a big buzz in our locker room after the game. It was about the great student turn out. I want to thank our administration, ticket and marketing and everything that went into this. It was great. Just like our team, we are trying to find consistency, I hope our crowd can find consistency as well. Maybe we can do it again Friday night. It is a double header. Lady Raiders start off their season and we play right after them at 8pm. Everyone has to get a goodnights sleep on Friday anyways because of the football game on Saturday. Why not come to a couple of basketball games, and take it to the house early. That’s just my thought. I also want to wish Incarnate Word the best this season. I have been on both sides of this type of games. They gave us all we could handle the first half. If Culver doesn’t hit that shot before half, it was a 6-point game. Lot of respect for Incardinate Word. I thought they played great. I thought our guys played better the second half, but I think you have to recognize Incarnate Word’s effort in the first half.”
On the difference between the first half and the second:
“First off, you have to have guys that want to be coached. We had some hard words to the guys at half time. We weren’t pleased. We made some adjustments, but you have to give the players credit. It starts with those four seniors. They knew what was coming. They knew we didn’t play our best the first half. You have to have guys that want to be coached, that’s the first thing. But then again, you have to give Incarnate Word credit, they spaced it out the first half. They shot a good percentage and they had a player get really hot. It isn’t always what you did bad, sometimes it is about understanding the opponents pretty good too.”
On Tariq’s six-block performance:
“We have expectations of all of our players. Tariq has the chance to become one of the best defensive players in college basketball. He has a special gift. It isn’t just the ability to get up there and block the shot, it’s the anticipation, intelligence, toughness, athleticism, and preparation. He spends a lot of time in the film room. He is a player I have a lot of confidence in. We need to get his fouls down. He needs to get a lot more minutes than he did tonight. What a teammate, what a guy. He cheers on the bench. My kind of guy. I think he is a winner. I think Tariq is interested in one thing this year, and that’s winning.”
On Norense Odiase:
“I think Norense is just getting started. He had some good put backs tonight. He is getting comfortable around the perimeter. He had a turnover game and I think one of those was a bad call. I thought it looked more like a 2-turn over game instead of three. Norense is a guy who is going to play facing the basket this year. He has worked really hard on his shooting. In our last game against UTEP, he had a double-double. Tonight he had things not go his way, but he still produced. He is our leading rebounder. If Norense can continue to be our leading rebounder all season, I think he is going to be an All-Conference- Big 12 guy. His rebounding is so important to us.”
On playing Incarnate Word:
“I have a lot of respect for the Incarnate Word and the program. When you coach as long as I have, and as many spots, you start getting relationships everywhere. I told the coach, I have a lot of pride in my past there. A lot of other good coaches out there. Started out with Coach Casper at Incarnate Word. He had a lot of success there. I will be pulling for these guys all year long. I told coach after this game, best wishes this season and if we can help anyway just let us know.”
On limiting turnovers in the second half:
“The thing I was proudest of offensively was how we flipped the script there. We are a team that has to stay around single digit turnovers. We showed the guys that this weekend. You know when we beat Stephen F. Austin, Purdue, and Villanova those were all 10 turn overs or less games. We win three and we have a chance to win the last one. Turnovers aren’t always just bad passes. We had some illegal screens, an offensive rebound push off and a travel. We just need to clean it up. It isn’t a secret that we have to be a low turnover team to compete.”
On four players scoring in double-digits:
“That’s what we want and what we need. We seek that. That’s our identity today. Four guys in double figures. We had one guy at 9 points and one guy at 7 points. This is our DNA. This is how we play the game. I was really pleased with Culver. No one wants to win more than him. Maybe he is trying a little too hard out of the gate, but he really calmed down and played a good floor game. I think he shot 60 percent from the floor, so Culver led us in a lot of ways tonight.”