LUBBOCK, Texas — Chris Clarke doesn’t score much, but he does just about everything else. Thursday night against Tennesse State (3-2), it was the little things that were key in No. 12 Texas Tech’s (4-0) 72-57 win.
Seven minutes into the second half, the heavily favored Red Raiders clung to a three-point lead. They needed to make a run, and Clarke provided it.
The Virginia Tech transfer gathered a steal and took the ball down the court to draw a foul. The call elicited a technical foul on Tennessee State, and the Red Raiders got two free throws. On the next play Clarke slammed Davide Moretti’s man with a pick, freeing the Italian for a successful 3-pointer. On defense, Clarke stepped in to draw a charge. Four minutes later, Texas Tech led by 14.
From that sequence, only the steal will show up on the stat sheet, but Clarke made four straight plays that were critical in catalyzing the Red Raider run. Clarke finished the game with 12 rebounds and one shot attempt, and while Beard loves Clarke’s unselfishness, he wants him to start shooting more.
“I think the best thing about Chris (Clarke) right now is his unselfishness,” Beard said. “But we’re going to have to get him scoring too.”
While Texas Tech fans love Clarke, they aren’t so fond of Tennessee State’s Wesley Harris.
After Texas Tech handed No. 2 West Virginia its first Big 12 loss of the 2017-18 season, Red Raider faithful stormed the court. Harris, a Mountaineer at the time, threw a punch at a fan running by him.
Harris transferred to Tennessee State in the offseason, and returned to Lubbock Thursday night. He was greeted with a resounding shower of “boos” every time he touched the ball. Harris finished the evening with 10 points on just 3-11 shooting
The Red Raider defense didn’t just stifle Harris. Through nine minutes, the Tigers had just one made field goal and five points on the board. They finished the night shooting 35.3 percent from the field.
For much of the game, Texas Tech’s shots weren’t falling either. Jahmi’us Ramsey air-balled two early jumpshots and the team missed 14 of its first 18 shots. Kyler Edwards started 0-7. After one half of ugly basketball, Texas Tech held a 27-22 lead.
One notable absence from the first half scoring sheet was T.J. Holyfield. The senior forward came into the game averaging 18.7 points per game but didn’t even attempt a shot in the first half.
Later in the game, the Tigers started to crack Texas Tech’s defense. They forced the ball inside, drawing fouls and getting the occasional layup. It wasn’t pretty, but the Tigers cut Texas Tech’s lead to two points in the second half.
They hung around until Clarke’s all-around play spurred a run. Another key component of that run was Moretti. The junior helped build the lead with three second half 3-pointers while the team was starved for offense. He finished with a team high 19 points.
“(Moretti) has turned himself into one of the best players in college basketball,” Beard said.
Aside from Moretti’s hot shooting, Texas Tech won the game at the free throw line. The Red Raiders shot 38 free throws and made 32 of them.
“We won the game tonight at the free throw line,” Beard said. “You’ve got to give our guys credit. We showed some poise, some composure when things got a little crazy out there.”
Texas Tech survived a poor shooting night to win the game, and Clarke’s heady, tough play was a major reason why.