KANSAS CITY – Jarrett Culver matched a career-high with 26 points and Matt Mooney added 15 to help lead Texas Tech to the Hall of Fame Classic Championship title with a 70-52 win over No. 25 Nebraska on Tuesday at the Sprint Center.
The Red Raiders (5-0) earned the tournament title after limiting the Cornhuskers (4-1) to 37 points below their season average and having nine players score in the game. Texas Tech trailed early by as many as nine in the first half but would take a six-point halftime lead and never looked back as it led for 25:29. The Red Raiders have now won a regular-season tournament title for the second straight season after taking the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tournament title last season with an 85-49 win over No. 20 Northwestern. Nebraska, which came into the game having scored over 80 in its previous four games, was the first ranked opponent for the Red Raiders this season and comes a year after Tech went 8-5 against opposition in the polls.
"We were really concerned with their offensive firepower and their ability to make the 3-point shot," said Texas Tech coach Chris Beard who is now 50-24 as the program's head coach. "I thought our guys were locked in tonight, especially on a one-day prep. I'm really proud of our team and it's evident that we have a veteran team with these four seniors. We embraced the preparation."
Texas Tech opened the tournament in Kansas City with a 78-63 win over Southern Cal on Monday after beginning the season with three home wins. Mooney was also named to the all-tournament team after he scored 17 points against the Trojans, while Culver earned the top honors after going for 18 against USC and then dropping the 26 against the Cornhuskers.
Culver was named the Hall of Fame Classic Most Valuable Player after recording the sixth game of his career with 20 or more points. He was 9-for-18 from the field with three 3-pointers and five more point from the free-throw line. Tariq Owens secured a season-high eight rebounds and added two blocks, while Mooney had two steals and two assists to go along with his 15 points. Culver, who also had 26 points last season at West Virginia, also had six rebounds and two assists in the win.
Davide Moretti finished the game with eight points and two assists and Brandone Francis scored seven to lead the bench which owned a 15-3 scoring advantage over Nebraska's bench on the night. Texas Tech owned a 38-29 rebounding advantage and limited the Cornhuskers to n 35.4 percent shooting and to a 5-for-23 performance on 3-pointers.
Texas Tech would take a 32-26 lead into halftime with Mooney scoring the final six points of the half on three layups to complete a first half where the Red Raiders trailed by nine early before four lead changes in the opening 20 minutes. Mooney led with nine points, including the six in the final 1:25 minutes of play to take a tied game to break with the Red Raiders up six. Francis added seven off the bench with a 3-pointer and two jumpers, while Culver had six points and three rebounds for the Red Raiders who would finish the half shooting 45.2 percent from the field.
Texas Tech was down 15-6 six minutes in the game before going on a 12-0 run to take a 18-15 lead on an Owens layup, an and-one from Mooney, two Culver free throws, Francis' 3-pointer and then a Deshawn Corprew layup. The run was shades of Monday's game against USC when the Red Raiders were down 13 before storming back to advance to the title game. Nebraska finished the first half shooting 37.5 percent from the field and were only 3-for-12 on 3-pointers. The Red Raiders were 1-for-5 from beyond the arc in the first half but owned inside with a 24-10 scoring advantage in the paint and a 20-13 rebounding margin.
The Red Raiders would never trail in the second half and were up double-digits for the first time when Culver hit a 3-pointer with 11 minutes remaining in the game. Mooney would add to the lead that was 11 with just over nine to play before a pair of Moretti free throws pushed the lead to 15 with 7:31 remaining. The largest lead of the game was at 17 points when Mooney hit a pair of free throws to increase the lead to 61-44 and the lead never went under 13 the rest of the way.
NEXT FIVE UP: Texas Tech returns from Kansas City to host Northern Colorado in a post-Thanksgiving matchup on Saturday at the United Supermarkets Arena where the Red Raiders have won 41 straight non-conference home games after starting the season with a 3-0 record on their home court. Texas Tech will then travel to play Memphis on Saturday, Dec. 1 at the Hoophall Invitational in Miami before a three-game home stand against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Northwestern State and Abilene Christian.