Men's Basketball Strolls Past Savannah State

LUBBOCK, TX - The trio of Jarrett Culver, Zhaire Smith and Niem Stevenson piled up a combined 53 points on an efficient 20-of-33 shooting effort to vault the Texas Tech men’s basketball team to a convincing 103-69 victory over Savannah State on Saturday at the United Supermarkets Arena.

The Red Raiders (6-0) secured the program’s sixth 6-0 start and joined the 1929-30, 1954-55, 1957-58, 1995-96 and 2009-10 squads on the illustrious undefeated list. Texas Tech has won its first six games by a margin of 168 points which is a program record for a 6-0 team.

The Red Raiders eclipsed 100 points for the 70th time in program history and for the first time since a 101-39 win over South Carolina State on Dec. 17, 2014. Texas Tech has won its last 16 games dating back to the 1997-98 season and posted a 66-4 record when surpassing the century mark.

The Red Raiders dished out 30 assists which is tied for second-most for a single game in program history. The school record is 35 versus East Central Oklahoma on Nov. 20, 2008.

“We are pleased to win today,” Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. “We knew it was going to be a challenging game because of their style of play. They have a unique way to play the game. On a short prep time, we thought we put our guys in a position to be successful. I give our players all the credit for executing what they needed to do to win the game.”

Stevenson secured 11 of his season-high 18 points during the second half. The 18 points also marked the third-highest scoring output of his career. He grabbed four rebounds and added two steals over his 17 minutes of court time.

Culver and Zhaire Smith teamed up for 35 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds. For Culver, he has reached double figures in four of his last five outings and tallied 38 of his 66 points on the season over his last two games. He dished out seven assists coupled with four rebounds and two steals.

Zhaire Smith reached 10-plus points for the third time on the young season. Six of his seven field goals came on dunks. He handed out five assists to go along with four rebounds.

Brandone Francis chipped in 10 points, three rebounds and two steals, while Justin Gray delivered nine points and six rebounds. Zach Smith tacked on eight poits and four rebounds.

Norense Odiase turned in another solid performance off the bench with eight points and seven rebounds. He registered six of his seven boards on the offensive end. Tommy Hamilton IV came away with six points and six rebounds followed by Davide Moretti with five points and three assists.

Keenan Evans had his streak of consecutive games in double figures come to a close at 25 which was tied for the 11th longest in program history. He found other ways to contribute and tied his career-best with seven assists and hauled down five rebounds.

Texas Tech knocked down 39-of-74 from the floor and canned 8-of-25 on its three-pointers. The Red Raiders connected on 17-of-21 at the free throw line. The Red Raiders dominated the interior and tallied a 58-34 advantage in paint points. Texas Tech also snatched 18 offensive rebounds en route to a 49-30 rebounding edge.

The Red Raiders amassed a season’s best 62 bench points to bring their season total to 250 points through six games.

Savannah State turned in a 23-for-64 shooting effort and dialed up a 10-for-41 mark from beyond the three-point line. The Tigers hit on 13-for-19 free throws. John Grant led the way with 18 points whereas leading scorer Dexter McClanahan was limited to nine points and misfired on eight of his 11 shots which included all seven of three-point attempts. 

Texas Tech led wire-to-wire and had the lead to double figures when Culver found Zach Smith for one of 14 dunks on the day to make it 18-7 at the 14:02 mark. Evans found Francis with the extra pass for a three-ball on the left baseline to extend the advantage to 25-9 with 11:38 remaining.

Savannah State would pull back within single digits two minutes later, but the Red Raiders closed the half with 19 of the last 29 points to secure a 44-27 lead going into the locker room.

Texas Tech turned up the pressure early in the second 20 minutes. A Stevenson transition dunk was followed by an Evans steal who dished off to Culver for a highlight-reel slam to push the score to 53-34 with 15:24 to go. 

That sequence ignited a 32-7 flurry over the next 7:06 off the clock. The Red Raiders pumped in eight of their last 11 baskets in the paint by either a dunk or layup. Texas Tech took its largest lead at 88-46 with 6:19 left after a Francis steal turned into a Stevenson dunk.

“I tell our players all the time that winning never gets old and don’t ever take it for granted,” Beard said. “We are very pleased today to get this win. This is all we were thinking about. There is a time not too long ago at different schools around the country where you were just trying to get a win. Now, we have the program to the point where the expectations are up. I think people walked into the arena tonight expecting us to win, and I liked that. That was one of many objectives we had in year one and in year two as we build the program where everyone expects us to play good and expecting to win. I give Coach (Tubby) Smith a lot of credit for where he took the program, and he built it the right way. We are benefitting from this recruiting class that he had and the discipline in coaching his teams had. I’m glad there are expectations. I expect to win every game on the schedule because I have a lot of confidence in our players.”

Texas Tech will make its debut at the Under Armour Reunion against No. 20 Seton Hall on Thursday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. CT and is televised by FOX Sports 1.

Next up at home, the Red Raiders square off with undefeated Nevada, a team who won 28 games and appeared in the 2017 NCAA Tournament on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

(Courtesy: Texas Tech Sports Communications Department)

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