MANHATTAN, KAN. — When scoring points seemed about as difficult as driving some of the chilled streets outside, Keenan Evans found a way to stoke the Texas Tech offense.
The senior guard scored 14 of his 19 total points in the second half to spark the No. 7 Red Raiders to a 66-47 in a Big 12 game Saturday inside Bramlage Coliseum.
“Always anticipate a grind-it-out game when you play (Kansas State) coach (Bruce) Weber’s teams,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “They don’t beat themselves, they play defense. They take things away from you, offensively. … It was just another tough game against a coach I have nothing but respect for.”
The Red Raiders (21-4 overall, 9-3 in the Big 12) earned their first win at Kansas State since Jan. 8, 2007. Texas Tech also took sole possession of first place in the Big 12 standings by defeating the Wildcats (17-8, 6-6).
All of those historic records were shattered thanks to the heads-up play of Evans, who developed an aggressive attitude in the final 20 minutes.
“We did a great job on Evans in the first half,” Weber said. “Obviously, he got going in the second half. That’s why he’s one of the better players in the country.”
The 6-foot-3 guard started things off by making a layup before Norense Odiase followed it up with one of his own to put things at 31-27 with about 18 minutes left in the second half.
Evans took things into his own hands by creating a fastbreak opportunity by stealing the ball and turning it into an old-fashioned, three-point play. Soon enough, the Red Raiders were on a 15-1 roll with Evans accounting for 10 of those points to help balloon the lead to 42-28 with 15 minutes left.
“We try to not put so much pressure on our offense to where we have to score every time we’re down,” said Evans, who has finished in double figures in his lats five games. “We always say, ‘Offensive helps us on defense. And defensive helps us on offense.’ So we just tried to make plays.”
The Wildcats closed the scoring gap to within six points twice, but Tommy Hamilton IV and Jarrett Culver drained a triple and jumper, respectively, to quell the late-game rally and cement the Red Raiders fourth true road win of the season.
Dean Wade finished with a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) to lead the Wildcats, who turned the ball over 18 times.
Hamilton ended the night with 14 points followed by Zhaire Smith (11 points) and Culver (10) to round out the Red Raiders in double figures.
“Obviously, too many turnovers,” Weber said. “They’re good. Chris has done an unbelievable job. Defensively, they’re tops in the league and one of the tops in the country. … They’re very physical and push you up the sideline. Things that you normally get are not there. So, you have to make different reads.”
The first half was a game of back-and-forth runs early on.
Kansas State forged a 7-0 run — sparked by a 3-pointer from Xavier Sneed — to start things off before the Red Raiders answered.
Smith drained a 3-point shot from the right-wing to engineer a 13-4 offensive spurt for Texas Tech. During that span, Hamilton IV and Evans made treys of their own.
From that point on, both teams battled until Wade drained a a pair of free throws to give Kansas State a 27-23 advantage with 1:35 left before halftime.
“I think for any player, you see the ball go in: it feels good,” said Hamilton, who chipped in eight rebounds — his first double-digit point total since a December win over Florida Atlantic. “But, tonight wasn’t really any different than any other night. I got a chance to play, got an opportunity and got the shots that I always, usually get. Tonight they fell.”
Texas Tech closed the first half on a 3-0 run — fueled by its dynamic freshmen. Smith split a pair of free throws before Culver swished a contested three-pointer from the left side of the court to knot things up at 27-27.
The Wildcats had a chance to score before the the buzzer, but could not take advantage of an Evans turnover as both squads headed into the break with the score deadlocked at 27-all.
“Defensively, we were dialed in,” Beard said. “And played, maybe, our fullest 40 minutes of the year defensively. Then, offensively, we couldn’t get much done in the first half. But credit K-State for that. Then, in the second half, things opened up for us and we were able to put enough points on the board to win.”
Player of the game
Keenan Evans, Sr. Guard, Texas Tech
When the Red Raiders needed a spark, Evans provided just that in the second half. During a 15-1 run, the senior guard scored 10 points to give Texas Tech a lead it never relinquished. He also added
With a No. 7 ranking, Texas Tech has matched a program high set back on March 4, 1996. Red Raiders coach Chris Beard, who has logged five wins over teams in AP top 25 this season, set a program record as well. In the two other instances during the 2004-2005 and 2007-2008 campaigns, Beard was an assistant under Bob and Pat Knight.
Texas Tech is scheduled to host No. 17 Oklahoma at at 6 p.m. Tuesday and the game is set to be televised on ESPN. The Sooners are on a three-game losing streak, dropping an 88-80 road decision to Iowa State on Saturday.
Kansas State is slated to play a 6 p.m. Wednesday road game against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys defeated No. 19 West Virginia on the road Saturday.