Texas Tech to play Nebraska for Hall of Fame Classic title
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Nebraska and Texas Tech are headed for an old-school Big 12 showdown in the Hall of Fame Classic.
The Huskers rolled to an 85-62 win over Missouri State in the first semifinal Monday night, and the Red Raiders roared back from a big hole for a 78-63 win over Southern California in the second, setting up the first meeting between the schools since they were in the same league.
Nebraska bolted for the Big Ten in 2011, when the Red Raiders beat the Huskers in the only meeting that season. And perhaps it is fitting that their first matchup all these years later comes at the Sprint Center, where the Big 12 still holds its postseason tournament every year.
“I haven’t really thought of it that way,” Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said. “I know this, they look like an obvious Sweet 16-type team on paper. If you’re that good you can win a couple more.”
The Huskers (4-0) were never all that good in the Big 12 Tournament, winning just six times in 15 editions. But they certainly turned a corner under coach Tim Miles, and the team that took the floor in the Sprint Center for the first time since the 2011 conference tournament was vastly improved.
Isaac Copeland Jr. led the way with 23 points, but the senior forward had a lot of help. Glynn Watson Jr. added 16 points, Isaiah Roby had 13 and Nana Akenten finished with 11 as Nebraska dominated the second half, turning a 40-35 lead with 17 minutes left into a blowout.
“The game plan was not simple. We had to do some things defensively to guard this group,” first-year Missouri State coach Dana Ford said. “They just beat us by the same thing Seton Hall beat us, maybe less, and Seton Hall is a really good program.”
The Huskers rolled despite an off night from star guard James Palmer Jr., who was just 2 of 9 from beyond the arc. Palmer had nearly as many turnovers (five) as he had points (eight).
“The guys just stayed with it. We have a very solid group. When you listen to them, you know they are very grounded,” Miles said. “I didn’t think there was any doubt we were going to assert our will.”
Keandre Cook had 22 points and Jarred Dixon added 12 for the Bears (3-1), who were undone in the second half by fatigue as much as anything. Four starters played at least 31 minutes.
“It was just a good chance to learn with all these new guys that haven’t played at this level yet against a really good team,” Dixon said. “We get to go back tomorrow and play another really good team.”
For a while, it looked as if that would be the Red Raiders.
Texas Tech was cold from the opening tip, and Southern California used a 10-0 run to build a 30-17 lead late in the first half. But the Red Raiders finally got on track out of the locker room, using a 14-2 charge to take their first lead since the opening minutes.
Texas Tech wound up going 16 of 19 from the field in the second half to pull away.
Tariq Owens and Jarrett Culver scored 18 points apiece, and Matt Mooney and Davide Moretti had 17 each, helping the Red Raiders cruise to a 4-0 start on the season.
Kevin Porter Jr. led USC (3-1) with 15 points. Bennie Boatwright had 14.
“We played a pretty good first half, we played very good defense, we shared the ball,” Trojans coach Andy Enfield said. “They did a great job of making open shots and they made some tough shots in the second half. They shot over 80 percent from the field and they were getting to the foul line.
“It was frustrating,” Enfield said, “because we couldn’t get the fouls ourselves.”
HALL OF FAME
Houston star Otis Birdsong, North Carolina standout Sam Perkins and Sidney Moncrief of Arkansas led the eight-member class inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame earlier in the weekend.
Southern California’s Paul Westphal, Morgan State star Marvin Webster and Arizona’s Sean Elliott along with longtime coaches Danny Miles of small-college Oregon Tech and John Kresse of College of Charleston were also inducted during ceremonies ahead of the tournament.
The tournament was the first time ShotTracker was used in competition. The system uses balls with embedded sensors to provide live, advanced analytics for coaches and fans alike. Several schools have used ShotTracker in practice but Monday night was the first time it was used in games.
“We’re a customer anyway, so we know the value of it,” Miles said. “Usually you have a feeling of what is going on, but when you have actual data to prove it, and it’s right there for everybody to see, I think it’s really, really helpful.”