BLOOMINGTON, Indiana – Texas Tech is moving on to the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament after a 65-53 win over Utah State on Friday at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana. The South Region’s No. 6 seeded Red Raiders advance to play third-seeded Arkansas (23-6) on Sunday with the time and location yet to be announced.
Tech (18-10) is now 9-2 in the NCAA Tournament under head coach Chris Beard in the past three tournaments and eliminated the Aggies (20-9) after being down 26-23 at halftime before outscoring them by a 42-27 margin in the second half. TTU, which has now held 13 opponents under 60 points this season, finished the game with only eight turnovers and forced 22 in the win where it used a 13-0 run which grew to a 24-4 overall run to take command in the second half.
“Great NCAA Tournament games are a game of runs,” Beard said. “You’ve got to have a lot of poise, ups and downs, got to stay the course. We didn’t want to get into a one-possession game with Utah State because we know how disciplined they are and they’ve got some really good players they can play through late. They did great this year through last-minute games. I thought specific to our successful run at the start of the second half, our defense remained consistent. The first half we guarded — really what helped us on that run is our offense opened up.”
Mac McClung led the Red Raiders with 16 points by hitting three 3-pointers, while Kyler Edwards hit two from beyond the arc and finished with 12 points. Terrence Shannon, Jr. and Kevin McCullar gave Tech four players in double-figure scoring with 10 points each and freshman Micah Peavy led the reserves with seven points. McCullar approached his third double-double of the season with seven rebounds to go along with his 10 points and Edwards led the team with three steals and also four assists in a game where the Red Raiders had 15 assists on 26 made baskets. Marcus Santos-Silva added six points and six rebounds.
Edwards and Shannon scored all of their points in the second half to help the Red Raiders overcome a defensive battle in the first half. Edwards was 3-for-4 from the field with two 3-pointers to go along with connecting on all four of his free throws in the final 20 minutes, while Shannon was 5-for-8 from the field and led the charge during the run that put the Red Raiders up. Tech finished the second half shooting 17-for-30 (56.7 percent) with four 3-pointers.
“I told the guys, man, just take a deep breath here, think about all the time you spent in the gym, the summer, the spring, early mornings, late nights, 300 club, extra shots,” Beard said. “We put in the work, man. We deserve the right. We earned the right to make some shots. Let’s don’t go panic here at halftime and change our offense, let’s just take a deep breath and be the best version of ourselves. Now, we did get a little more aggressive offensively, turn up the heat a little bit because their half-court defense is so well. I thought our best chance was to get some shots in transition. So from a coaching standpoint give the guys credit. They listened. Hey, let’s go get some shots early because this defense is so good.”
Utah State finished the game with a 38-28 rebounding advantage, but couldn’t overcome the 22 turnovers and the Red Raiders getting hot offensively in the second half. Justin Bean led the Aggies with 13 points, while Neemias Queta recorded a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds to go along with a team-high six assists. Marco Anthony added 11 points and four assists for the Aggies who were limited to only 4-for-19 on 3-pointers.
Down six three minutes into the second half, Tech went on an 8-0 run with Shannon scoring six points and assisting Nadolny on the second basket… Shannon had not scored in the first half.
Edwards buried a 3-pointer off an assists from Nadolny to take a 36-31 lead with 14:24 remaining and was followed by McCullar popping another 3-pointer to push the lead to 41-33 (2H, 13:06)… Tech was on a 16-2 run at that point to regain the lead.
Peavy hit back-to-back baskets to give Tech a 45-35 lead that was pushed to 47-35 on a Shannon layup with 10:42 to play… McClung had Tech on a 24-4 run and leading 49-37 before USU scored a couple of baskets to stop the run and get the game back to single digits.
Edwards scored on a second-chance basket before a fast-break dunk by Peavy pushed it back to 55-41 with five minutes to play.
Tech scored first on a McCullar jumper on the team’s second possession… McCullar hit a 3-pointer on the next trip down following an Edwards steal and assist for a 5-0 lead.
USU went on a 10-0 run to lead 10-5 before a Santos-Silva layup and Burton jumper stopped it.
Tech led by seven after a 7-0 run that started with a Santos-Silva hook shot before a McClung 3-pointer and then another MSS layup for a 19-12 lead with six minutes until the break.
USU went on its second 10-0 run of the half to lead 24-20 with 1:40 until the break before McClung’s second 3-pointer of the half made it 24-23 with 1:21.
HALFTIME REPORT: McClung led Tech with nine points at halftime with two 3-pointers, while Santos-Silva had six points and five rebounds. Tech was shooting just 9-for-32 from the field (28.1 percent) and 3-for-8 on 3-pointers. McCullar scored the game’s first five points and finished the half with five points and three rebounds. Edwards and Santos-Silva had two assists for the Red Raiders who had six assists on their nine shots. Bean led Utah State with 10 points and eight rebounds in the first half, while Queta and Anderson had four points each. USU was 11-for-23 from the field, but only 1-for-8 on 3-pointers with Miller going 1-for-4 in the opening half. The Aggies had a 23-13 rebounding advantage but had committed 13 turnovers to Tech’s five coming out of the locker room.
UP NEXT: Texas Tech is 40-39 all-time against the Razorbacks following a 67-64 win in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Jan. 26, 2019 in Lubbock in the last matchup. Former Southwest Conference rivals, this will be the first time the two programs have meet in the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas advanced in the tournament with an 85-68 win over Colgate on Friday.
BEARD ON PLAYING ARKANSAS: “Yeah, I like Muss. We’re friends. Exchange calls, a text every once in a while, a lot of respect for what he did at Nevada. We played those guys in Lubbock in a really tough game we were fortunate to win. I have a lot of pride in the state of Arkansas, Little Rock will always be special to me. Got my first Division I opportunity there, and I just love that state. I follow that program. He’s doing a great job, and so a lot of respect for their program. I’ve seen them play as a fan this year. I know they’ve got a lottery pick, I know they’ve got a couple other NBA guys. I know they’ve got an NBA coach that’s going to game plan and scheme, so it’ll be a real challenge for us, but we’ve been through a lot of challenges lately. When you play 18 Big 12 games and you play in my opinion one of the most disciplined teams in the tournament in Game 1, Utah State, it’s not going to be an excuse that we haven’t been challenged. They’re an outstanding team. They’re worthy of their high seed. They’ve had a great season. Nothing but respect for Coach and those players. We look forward to the opportunity to play against a great team.”
TOURNAMENT NOTES: TTU is now 17-19 all-time as it begins its 18th NCAA Tournament in program history. The Red Raiders are 9-2 under Beard and now 3-0 in opening round games under his leadership… Beard led the Red Raiders to a win over Florida in the 2018 tournament’s second round in its last matchup against an SEC opponent.
Release / Photo Provided By Texas Tech Athletics