No. 22 Texas Tech tops No. 18 Baylor 77-53 in Big 12 opener
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Texas Tech is starting to look like the Red Raiders of a decade ago, when they were winning NCAA Tournament games under Bob Knight with Chris Beard as one of his top assistants.
Beard’s bunch took another big step in the Big 12 opener.
Keenan Evans scored 18 points, freshman Zhaire Smith added 15 in his conference debut and the No. 22 Red Raiders rolled past 18th-ranked Baylor 77-53 on Friday night.
Texas Tech (12-1, 1-0 Big 12) beat a ranked team while in the poll themselves for the first time since 2005. Knight was the coach and Beard was on the staff when 24th-ranked Texas Tech beat No. 11 Gonzaga 71-69 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re pleased to win tonight because we know how hard it is to win games in this league,” said Beard, in his second year leading the Red Raiders. “We’re pleased to protect our home court. But now we’ve got to validate this. No championship is ever won the first game.”
Mark Vital scored 12 points for the Bears (10-3, 0-1), who were missing Big 12 rebounding leader Jo Lual-Acuil because of a left foot sprain. Baylor was outrebounded 39-21, including 22-8 in the first half while falling behind 40-19.
Manu Lecomte, the No. 2 scorer in the Big 12 at 18.4 points per game coming in, scored eight points on 3-of-11 shooting. King McClure and Tristan Clark had 10 points apiece.
The Red Raiders, second nationally in points allowed and opposing shooting percentage, held Baylor to a season low in points. The Bears shot 30 percent in the first half and 37 percent for the game.
“I thought first half, we were all embarrassed by how we played,” coach Scott Drew said. “Hopefully we’ll get a lot better. Nobody likes the feeling that we have after today’s game.”
Jarrett Culver, another freshman, hit a jumper to start a 14-0 run for a 29-9 lead in the first half and finished with 13 points. Niem Stevenson had 11 points and a game-high five assists for the Red Raiders in the first meeting out of 135 with both of these longtime league rivals ranked.
“When you get into conference play, it’s just a different kind of intensity, especially in the Big 12,” Beard said. “It felt different today in shootaround. I think even our young guys said, ‘Hey, Coach, it kind of feels different today in practice.’ I said, ‘Yeah, welcome to the Big 12.’”
Evans was 4 of 7 from 3-point range in the third win against a ranked team this season for Texas Tech, which matched Oklahoma for the most victories for a Big 12 team over ranked opponents in nonconference.
Baylor: Even though all three of Baylor’s losses are against ranked teams — the first two were current top 10 teams in Xavier and Wichita State — the Bears are banged up and not playing well. They’ll need Lual-Acuil back quickly, as their rebounding deficit showed, and they’ll need more from top reserve Terry Maston, who missed all four shots and went scoreless in his return after missing six games with a broken shooting hand.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are one of just two teams to start five seniors, and they have a young budding star in Smith. It was hard to tell whether the depth Beard used against a relatively soft nonconference schedule would translate to the rugged Big 12. The first test looked good.
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Baylor had one assist, fewest in the 15-season Drew era. The previous low was four in an 80-52 loss to Oklahoma on Feb. 11, 2006. That was Drew’s first season, when the Bears weren’t allowed to play a nonconference schedule because of NCAA violations. “I didn’t think that was possible,” Drew said. “I thought we did a bad job coaching and playing.”
The Bears entered the game ranked eighth nationally in rebounding margin at plus-10.2. Without Lual-Acuil and his 10 rebounds per game, Nuni Omot was the top rebounder with five. Texas Tech had three with at least that many.
“That was the key to the game,” Beard said. “Baylor’s identity is rebounding. They’re really good at it. They recruit to it. They coach it. They emphasize it. If you don’t rebound with Baylor, you have no chance to win the game.”
Baylor: Home against No. 10 TCU on Tuesday.
Texas Tech: At No. 11 Kansas on Tuesday.