For the second straight game, the Texas Tech men’s basketball team came out flat while its opponent dazzled from beyond the 3-point line.
The Red Raiders missed their first five shots before Niem Stevenson drained a jumper from the right short corner to close No. 22 Nevada’s scoring gap to 7-2 after four minutes had elapsed.
Texas Tech played catch-up for the rest of the contest, taking its first lead of the game late in the second half, before Keenan Evans made one of two free throws to cement an 82-76 overtime win over the Wolf Pack in a non-conference game Tuesday night at United Supermarkets Arena.
“I thought Keenan was pretty good,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “Keenan is a special player. He earns the right to have nights like this because of how hard he works in the summer and the offseason. … We had some great spacing late in the game. We had some great screens. I think Keenan would be the first to tell you that.”
Evans, who set a career high with 32 points, netted 25 of those points in the second half and overtime period to lift the Red Raiders (7-1) to their second win over a ranked opponent this season. It was the first win against a ranked non-conference opponent at home since a victory over Washington in 2009.
Freshman Zhaire Smith, who finished with 10 points, made a difficult layup with 32 seconds in overtime to provide an 80-76 cushion. Stevenson ended with 11 points.
“Coach always says veterans and the young guys gotta grow up fast,” Smith said. “It was the moment. I had to play normal.”
The Wolf Pack (8-1), who looked to be sizzling from the 3-point line earlier in the game, were unable to knock down shots as players fouled out and exhaustion set in. It was Nevada’s first loss on an opponent’s home court since February.
The Martins — 6-foot-7 twins Caleb and Cody — had 28 and 22 points, respectively, for the Wolf Pack, and five rebounds apiece.
“I thought it was a great game for TV people and great game for any spectators that came here tonight,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “Two teams played really hard. The difference in the game was free throws attempted. We’re not an overly physical team, and I think Texas Tech’s a really physical team, does a great job.”
The Red Raiders went 26 of 38 from the free-throw line, while Nevada finished 14 of 17.
“We always kind of go by the most aggressive team that gets to the free-throw line will most likely be the winner,” Evans said. “We kind of wanted to turn the tables on them once we noticed that we were in the one-and-one and double-bonus. We wanted to keep attacking and make them play on their heels.”
On two separate occasions, Jarrett Culver and Evans both did their best to keep Texas Tech within scoring distance.
Culver, who was denied a fastbreak dunk in the first half, drove from the left wing and dunked the ball with two hands to close the deficit to 51-47 with 9:28 left in the second half.
About two minutes later, Evans stepped into a 3-point shot to put things at 56-52 which appeared to be his way of inserting himself into the game thanks to his ability to get to the rim.
The senior guard also dished an assist to Davide Moretti, who drained a 3 that gave the Red Raiders their first, but brief, lead at 59-58 with 5:51 left in the second half.
“It’s funny because we were talking about that right before that play,” Evans said. “Coach was saying, ‘Morrow (Moretti) is open,’ Morrow’s open.’ They’re focusing in on you now. … I drove it in a bit and tossed it over there and Morrow knocked down a 3.”
Nevada answered, as it did all night, by taking a 66-62 advantage before Texas Tech made its final push to send the game into overtime.
“I think tonight we had opportunistic defense,” Beard said, alluding to Nevada turning the ball over only five times in its last game. “We really couldn’t stop Nevada. They’re so good. They space out. They’ve got pros. You can’t guard those shots. It’s like Kobe Bryant, or something. I thought we made some plays on defense.
“Sometimes you’ve got to go make a play on defense and risk, maybe, making a mistake.”
Player of the game
Keenan Evans scored a career-high 32 points, including 25 in the second half and overtime period, to guide Texas Tech to a signature win.
The Texas Tech offense had penciled in a senior lineup for seven straight games.
But that changed Tuesday as Norense Odiase earned his first start of the season over senior post Tommy Hamilton IV. It marked the first time Odiase was in the starting lineup since Jan. 18, 2016 — the day he injured his foot against Big 12 foe TCU.
Texas Tech is scheduled to host Kennesaw State on Dec. 13.
Nevada is slated to take on No. 20 TCU in a 10 p.m. PST Friday contest as part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. The game is at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.