KANSAS CITY – Tariq Owens and Jarrett Culver scored 18 points each and Matt Mooney and Davide Moretti both went for 17 as Texas Tech stormed back from a nine-point halftime deficit to earn a 78-63 win over Southern Cal on Monday on the first day of the Hall of Fame Classic at the Sprint Center.
The Red Raiders (4-0) trailed by as many as 13 in the first half against the Trojans (2-2), but would respond by shooting 16-for-19 (84.2 percent) from the field and 5-for-6 on 3-pointers in the second half to advance to the Hall of Fame Classic Championship final where they will meet Nebraska at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Sprint Center.
"It's not easy not playing well and then flipping the script," Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. "We played really well in the second half shooting over 80 percent and only having three turnovers. You can beat a lot of teams like that. I learned that we can make adjustments and everything that I had hoped about our guys where they are grown men who want to be coached hard. Every team is a work in progress right now and trying to get better and we're no different. Playing this type of competition in this venue gives us a chance to get better."
Culver would add a team-high nine rebounds and five assists to his 18 points, while Owens scored his season-high 18 points by going 7-for-10 from the field and 3-for-3 from the free-throw line. Mooney would also notch a season-high with his 17 points that came on a 6-for-12 shooting performance and knocking down two 3-pointers. Down 32-23 at halftime, Mooney would spark the team early in the second half with a layup followed by a 3-pointer to cut it to a 34-29 deficit just 1:40 in the half. Another Mooney layup was followed by two Culver free throws and a layup before Moretti drilled a 3-pointer to give the Red Raiders a 37-36 lead with 14:38 to play. Mooney scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half where he was 5-for-5 from the field.
"We were sluggish in the first half and that's just not us," Mooney said. "Us as seniors can't let that happen. We knew we had to bring energy in the second half and we were able to get some steals and get out in transition. Once we got some shots going it got contagious."
Moretti's 17 points matched his career-high that he set in the second game of the season and came with him knocking down four shots and going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line. A sophomore from Italy, Moretti scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half and also finished the game with two assists. Owens scored 11 points in the second half where he was 4-for-4 from the field and 3-for-3 from the line. He had an emphatic dunk off a lob from Culver to give the Red Raiders a 59-53 that would grow to an 11-point lead with him hitting a layup to cap the 7-0 run.
"This was a real test for us," Owens said. "We've felt like we always had that leadership role but this game showed that we always have to be ready. As leaders and seniors, this showed us that we have to be ready to play every single game and all 40 minutes."
Texas Tech trailed 32-23 at halftime after being limited to 27.3 percent shooting from the field and only going 1-for-9 on 3-pointers. The Red Raiders, who had not trailed once throughout the first three games of the season, were down by as many as 13 in the opening half against the Trojans who were 6-for-12 on 3-pointers through 20 minutes. Owens led Texas Tech with seven points and four rebounds in the first half, while Culver had five points and two assists. The Trojans would take a 20-17 game into a 13-point deficit for the Red Raiders with a 10-0 run that included two 3-pointers. Tech ended the run with a Culver layup with 2:46 remaining in the half.
Boatwright had a half-high 10 points for USC and Porter was at eight points and three assists as the Trojans took the nine-point lead into halftime despite having 10 turnovers against the Red Raider defense.
"We didn't play very well in the first half," Beard said. "A lot of that was us, but you also have to give them some credit. We settled down in the second half. When you shoot over 80 percent and only have three turnovers in a half you're going to be successful a lot of times."
Texas Tech and Nebraska will meet for the 27th time on Tuesday, but the first since 2011 when the Red Raiders earned a 72-71 win in Lubbock. The Huskers (4-0) advanced to final with an 85-62 win over Missouri State on Monday led by Isaac Copeland Jr. who went for 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists. The Huskers shot 50.8 percent from the field in the game, including hitting 13 3-pointers.
"I've only seen Nebraska play one game on television and we'll dig in tonight," Beard said. "I know this, they are really good. They look to me to be a Sweet 16-type team on paper and then of course if you're that good you can win a couple more and make the final four. They have experience, guard play and we know that we'll have to play our best against them."