LUBBOCK, Texas – Davide Moretti scored a career-high 21 points and Jarrett Culver added four 3-pointers to help lead No. 14 Texas Tech to a 67-64 SEC/Big 12 Challenge win over Arkansas on Saturday at the United Supermarkets Arena. The win helped the Big 12 to a 6-4 win in the challenge and snapped a three-game losing streak.
The Red Raiders (16-4) have now won 47 straight non-conference home games, are 40-39 in their all-time series with the Razorbacks (11-8) that started in 1942 and improved to 12-1 in non-conference play this season. TTU trailed at halftime for the ninth time this season, but responded with its seventh win in that situation after limiting turnovers in the second half and shooting 10-for-19 on 3-pointers and 51.2 percent overall in the game.
"I think you have to give Arkansas a lot of credit, but I do think our guys showed a lot of grit to come back after being down at half time and finding a way to win, when it really wasn't our best night," Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. "I'm happy for our players. I think we beat a really good team and a team that is in a fight for the NCAA tournament."
Texas Tech will return to action against TCU at 8 p.m. on Monday at the USA in the ESPN Big Monday matchup. The Red Raiders are 2-1 at home in conference game this season, while the Horned Frogs (15-4) is coming off a 55-50 win over Florida in their SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Culver would score 12 of his 15 points in the second half and finished the game 4-for-5 on 3-pointers and also added four assists and three steals. Moretti, who had a previous career-high of 19 points earlier this season at home against Kansas State, would going 6-for-9 from the field with three 3-pointers for his 21 points for the Red Raiders who improve to 11-1 at home this season. Culver's first 3-pointer of the second half came on the first possession, tying the game at 33-33 and Matt Mooney would hit another to give Texas Tech a 42-40 lead three minutes into the half. Another 3 by Culver followed by one from Moretti gave the Red Raiders a six-point advantage before Culver made it 52-42 with his fourth of the game.
Texas Tech had its largest lead of the game at 12 when Norense Odiase pulled down an offensive rebound and scored on a dunk with eight minutes remaining before Arkansas started chipping at the lead. The Razorbacks had it down to four with 4:10 to play on a Mason Jones layup and it was at three with Daniel Gafford making another layup with 1:34 on the clock. A free throw by Embery-Simpson cut it to two before Culver made one free throw on the offensive side of the court and then a steal with six seconds remaining on defense. Moretti would hit a pair of free throws with five seconds on the clock to push the lead to five in a game that ended with a three-point margin after a Harris layup as time expired for the Razorbacks. Moretti finished the game 6-for-7 from the free-throw line, while the Red Raiders were 13-for-19 as a team from the line.
Mooney would finish the game with 12 points, including going off for nine in the second half. He was 4-for-8 from the field, 3-for-4 at the free-throw line and also had two assists. Kyler Edwards would add seven points, Brandone Francis had five and Odiase led the team with seven rebounds to take his career total to 486. The Red Raiders had only six turnovers in the second half after committing 15 in the first half and shot over 50 percent for the sixth time this season. The 10 3-pointers matched a season-best after they also had 10 against Northern Colorado earlier this season.
Gafford led the Razorbacks with 14 points and added five rebounds, while Harris and Mason Jones each had 11. Arkansas shot 43.8 percent from the field in the game but was limited to 4-for-19 on 3-pointers and was 18-for-26 at the free-throw line.
Texas Tech trailed 33-30 at halftime with Jalen Harris hitting a 3-point buzzer beater to give the Razorbacks the lead. The Red Raiders were shooting 11-for-20 (55 percent) at half but also had 15 turnovers, while Arkansas was shooting 40.7 percent from the field, was 8-for-9 at the free-throw line and had nine turnovers. Moretti led the Red Raiders with 14 points after going 5-for-7 from the field with two 3-pointer and Francis had five points off the bench. TTU was 5-for-10 on 3-pointers in the opening half, while the Razorbacks were 3-for-10. Harris was leading Arkansas with nine points after his shot to end the half.
Texas Tech coach Chris Beard
"We have a lot of respect for Arkansas' program, certainly in my time in that state I saw most of those players play in high school and on the grassroots circuits. I've always had a lot of respect for Coach. I'm happy for our players. I think we beat a really good team and a team that is in a fight for the NCAA tournament. I want to thank the crowd, we are starting to develop a home court advantage here, very appreciative in the season ticket holders for not only buying the tickets but coming to the games, certainly when our students show up I think we have one of the best home courts in college basketball. On a night where we didn't play our I best, I think you have to give Arkansas a lot of credit, but I do think our guys showed a lot of grit to come back after being down at half time and finding a way to win, when it really wasn't our best night."
On Davide Moretti's performance:
"We've talked about this before, last year played a nice role as a young player in this league, he played his best basketball in March, persevered through times in the middle of season where the game was just hard for him, had a great summer and offseason he is trying to find that next level. To win in this league, the SEC is no different, to win a BCS game you have to have three of four people show up and play great and Moro is starting to find some consistency where he is one of those guys that we are relying on. Tonight the most impressive thing is against an Arkansas, Coach Anderson, a pressure defensive game, he only has one turnover and plays a lot of minutes. When he shoots, I think every shot is going to go in, he is one of the best shooters I have ever coached. I'm more impressed with the defense and the ball handling."
On the late-game moments against Arkansas:
"I didn't feel great, I was scared to death over there because you have so much respect for the opponent. I thought Matt verbalized it well, you got a three-point lead, it's all about time and score so there's around 20 something seconds left in the game so probably too early to foul, even though they have some not so great free throw shooters. I thought they would go inside to Gafford and we had to make a decision whether or not we were going to double team him, so some strategy. Give the players all the credit I thought Matt made a great play and then Culver made the play that Matt gave him the opportunity to make, so its team defense at its best. "
On hosting TCU on Monday:
"I watch all the Big 12 games, I haven't started preparing yet Jamie Dickson does a great job, Robinson is one of the best guards in our league, he is probably the best pick and roll player in college basketball, in my opinion. They've done a great job recruiting, they are a really good team. TCU in an NCAA tournament team, TCU is in the fight to win the Big 12 Conference we are only five/six games into this so in my opinion they are one of the best teams in the country, we will have to play really well. We have had some big time games with them in our two or three years here, we will have to play really well on Monday night against TCU. Lastly, the opportunity to play on Big Monday is special to us, we don't take it lightly. We haven't had a Big Monday night game in Lubbock since Coach Knight coached here, its something that we embrace and I want to thank those seniors on that first team, Livingston, Devon, and Ross, those guys, and Temple, last year's senior guys paved the path for us to play in games like we are going to get to play on Monday. I always ask a lot from Red Raider nation, our students for so much and I'm just asking them again, I think we have to have a sold out crowd on Monday night for Big Monday, this is the biggest stage for college basketball, lets show the country what Lubbock is, lets show them what Texas Tech is and lets have a great crowd Monday and celebrate a great night of basketball on Big Monday."
On the second half:
"We weren't aggressive at the end of the first half so we got organized at halftime. We said that we should be more aggressive and we started good in the second half, be more aggressive was the first key of the game."
On the team's performance against the Razorbacks:
"Some times we forget how we play and who we are and just get a stop and play aggressive on the ball. Don't let them shoot wide open threes or get any and ones or easy lay ups."
On his game against Arkansas:
"Offensive game wasn't great I had a lot of turnovers but I did see a couple buckets go down in early in the second half, so it felt good to hit a few shots and help us get out to a bit of a lead."
On Texas Tech's Avery Benson:
"Avery shows up every day and works his tail off, and you know when you put him in the game what you're going to get out of him. He is going to hustle, he's going to dive on lose balls, he is one of the toughest dudes I've ever been around and being from Arkansas I'm really happy we were able to get this win for him."
On the win over Arkansas:
"Definitely feels great to get a win, Arkansas is a real good team so it feels good to get a win against them, but at the same time we got a lot of work to do to get better. TCU is a real good team so we really can't celebrate for too long for this one because they are coming up in less than 48 hours, but it feels good right now."
On the final possession:
"When you're up three late in the game the biggest thing is don't give up any threes and if it's going to be a foul, real hard foul, but no threes. They got the best shooter in the SEC in number 1 (Joe) he is a real good shooter and a couple other guys who can stroke it, just finding them and running them off the three point line."