Keenan Evans didn’t practice the day before his Texas Tech team hooked up with Florida.
It didn’t seem to bother as his grittiness epitomized the Red Raiders’ toughness in their biggest victory of the season Saturday night
Texas Tech survived two Florida 3-point attempts on their final possession to claim a wild 69-66 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Dallas.
Errant shots by Egor Koulechov and KeVaughn Allen from deep in the left corner glanced off the rim as the Red Raiders qualified for the Sweet 16.
Texas Tech jumps to 26-9 with the victory. Florida falls to 21-13 with the loss.
3 who mattered
- Keenan Evans: He might not practice that much because of his injury, Tech’s leading scorer went for a team-high 22 points, 3 rebounds and an assist.
- Jalen Hudson: While the rest of his team sputtered offensively, Hudson was the closest to a constant for Florida coach Mike White. He finished with a game-high 23 points.
- Zhaire Smith: He had another thrilling dunk, but he was more impressive with the way he filled the stat sheet. Smith finished with 18 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and was a team-best plus-10 in plus-minus.
The turning point
After Florida had tied the game at 64 on a layup by Koulechov with 3:03 left, Evans coolly drained a 3-pointer with 2:32 left to give the Red Raiders the lead.
Zach Smith came up with a blocked shot on the other end to preserve the lead.
And then Zhaire Smith then added an alley-oop dunk on a scintillating pass from Evans with 29.4 seconds to finish off a critical 5-0 run.
- If Keenan Evans plays like he did Saturday coming off his injury, he’ll will his way onto an NBA roster next season if he’s healthy. His heart was profoundly apparent during the Red Raiders’ comeback, as it’s been all season. As the sign shown he really is “The World’s Greatest Showman.”
- Texas Tech’s athleticism was on full display in the second half with their collection of alley-oop dunks, blocks and other breathtaking plays. They have been one of the revelations of the tournament so far with their two tight victories.
- An early highlight that should have been for the “One Shining Moment” video, but won’t: Game officials badly missed a call when they ruled that Brandone Francis stepped out of bounds while grabbing a rebound under the Florida basket midway through the first half. Replays showed that Francis did not step out. And it became even more grievous when KeVaughn Ellis scored an easy basket on the next play. Tony Padilla’s crew has several other misses as the game continued.
The number: 4
Texas Tech claims its fourth trip to the Sweet 16 in school history after the victory over Florida.
What’s next for Texas Tech basketball
The Red Raiders charge into the Sweet 16 next week in Boston against the winner of Purdue and Butler, which will be played on Sunday.
It will be Texas Tech’s first Sweet 16 appearance since making the 2004 Sweet 16 in Albuquerque and fourth in school history. It lost to West Virginia there in the Red Raiders’ deepest tournament advancement with Bob Knight. Current Texas Tech coach Chris Beard was on Knight’s staff.
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