Texas Tech beats Purdue, advances to NCAA Elite Eight

The third-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders ran away from No. 2 Purdue 78-65 Friday night in Boston, advancing to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

Texas Tech will play No. 1-seed Villanova on Sunday for the East Region championship and a trip to the Final Four in San Antonio.

In a television interview, Texas Tech coach Chris Beard called it “one of our best defensive games” of the season and cited guard Keenan Evans for taking over “like he usually does.”

Evans hit clutch shots down the stretch in finishing with a team-high 16 points.

Perhaps more significantly, the Red Raiders held Purdue to 44 percent shooting and forced 17 turnovers.

Texas Tech had made it to the Round of 16 twice in the past 22 years but lost both times.

Tech’s victory places a third team from the Big 12 Conference in the Elite Eight.

The Red Raiders will join the Kansas State Wildcats and the Kansas Jayhawks, all with a chance to make it to San Antonio.

In Saturday’s Elite Eight games, Kansas State will play Loyola-Chicago in Atlanta for the South Region championship, while Florida State will take on Michigan in Los Angeles for the West title.

On Sunday, Tech will face off against talented Villanova in Boston, while Kansas will play Duke, in Omaha, for Midwest Region crown.

Tech might have as balanced of a team as any left in the tournament because of its athleticism, its defense and its ability to get shots close to the basket.

“We just gave up way too many layups,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We couldn’t keep ’em out of the paint.”

Texas Tech beats Florida, advances to Round of 16

Texas Tech advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 13 years Saturday night following a 69-66 victory over Florida in an East Regional second-round game at Dallas.

It’s a stunning achievement for the Red Raiders, who were picked in the preseason to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 Conference.

Second-year Texas Tech coach Chris Beard told a television reporter for TBS that he has always been driven to prove people wrong.

“We don’t have the McDonald’s All-Americans,” Beard said. “But we’ve got guys who have gotten better, and we’ve got guys who believe in themselves.”

As a result, third-seeded Tech (26-9) will move on to Boston next week to face either Purdue or Butler.

The Red Raiders last played in the Sweet 16 in 2005 when they defeated UCLA and Gonzaga in Tucson before losing to West Virginia, 65-60, in the regional semifinals at Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Bob Knight was in his fourth season as Tech’s coach at the time.

Houston’s heart-break

Jordan Poole hit a long three-pointer to beat the buzzer as the third-seeded Michigan Wolverines ousted No. 6 Houston 64-63 in a Round of 32 West Region thriller at Wichita, Kansas.

The Cougars had a chance to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 34 years but couldn’t stop the Wolverines from making the winning play with a possession that started with 3.6 seconds remaining.

Michigan inbounded the ball from its own baseline. The pass went to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who passed to Poole on the right wing.

Poole elevated with pressure from a Houston defender and, with legs splayed, hoisted the shot that lifted Michigan into the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.

Loyola-Chicago wins again

Clayton Custer’s jumper with 3.6 seconds left boosted the 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers into the Round of 16 with a 63-62 victory over No. 3 Tennessee in a South Region game at Dallas.

The Volunteers had a chance to win at the buzzer, but Jordan Bone misfired on a contested three from top of the circle.

With the victory, Loyola-Chicago emerged as the only double-digit seed to win a second-round game on Saturday, with three more — UMBC, Butler and Syracuse — playing Sunday.

Round of 32

Saturday’s scores / Sunday’s schedule

South

(16) UMBC vs. (9) Kansas State, Sunday, 6:45 p.m., TruTV
(5) Kentucky beat (13) Buffalo, 95-75

(11) Loyola-Chicago beat (3) Tennessee, 63-62
(2) Cincinnati vs. (7) Nevada, Sunday, 5:10 p.m., TNT

West

(1) Xavier vs. (9) Florida State, Sunday, 7:45 p.m., TNT
(4) Gonzaga beat (5) Ohio State, 90-84

(3) Michigan beat (6) Houston, 64-63
(7) Texas A&M vs. (2) North Carolina, Sunday, 4:15 p.m., CBS

East

(1) Villanova beat (9) Alabama, 81-58
(5) West Virginia vs. (13) Marshall, Sunday, 8:40 p.m., TBS

(3) Texas Tech beat (6) Florida, 69-66
(10) Butler vs. (2) Purdue, Sunday, 11:10 a.m., CBS

Midwest

(1) Kansas beat (8) Seton Hall, 83-79
(4) Auburn vs. (5) Clemson, Sunday, 6:10 p.m., CBS

(11) Syracuse vs. (3) Michigan State, Sunday, 1:40 p.m., CBS
(2) Duke beat (7) Rhode Island, 87-62

Prince or frog? Texas Tech’s Beard wary of Big 12 hype

The Texas Tech basketball program on Sunday discovered yet another sign that the Red Raiders have joined the conversation as a dark horse candidate to play deep into March during the NCAA tournament.

In Jerry Palm’s latest projection for CBS Sports, the Big 12-leading Red Raiders are pegged as a No. 2 seed in the West region, headed for Dallas to play in the round of 64.

Of course, a month remains before Selection Sunday.

But both the experts and amateurs alike are busily trying to sort out what the bracket might look like.

In dissecting how the Big 12 teams will be slotted, Palm has projected the surprising Red Raiders (21-4, 9-3) as a No. 2 and Kansas (19-6, 8-4) as a No. 3.

West Virginia is pegged as a No. 5 seed and the Oklahoma Sooners, who will roll into Lubbock to play the Red Raiders Tuesday night, are a No. 6.

TCU is viewed as a No. 10, with Texas and Kansas State slotted precariously on the No. 12 line.

All very interesting, except Texas Tech coach Chris Beard isn’t buying any of it.

Beard has joked that, in the Big 12, you can be a prince one day and a frog the next.

“A two-game losing streak feels like your life is over,” he told reporters Saturday night.

Life is good at the moment for Beard, whose team has won six in a row.

In their latest statement, the Red Raiders went on the road and convincingly whipped the Kansas State Wildcats, 66-47, to gain sole possession of the conference lead.

Pressed on what he is telling his players now that they hold a one-game edge on defending champion Kansas, Beard said the message is simple.

Stay the course.

“I’m getting this question a lot,” Beard said. “I wish I had a better answer for you. I’m not trying to be like Debbie Downer.

“(With our team) … the next day is the most important. We’re just trying to win the next game on our schedule.”

Texas Tech makes history with first victory at Kansas

The Texas Tech Red Raiders guarded the three-point line effectively and came away with an impressive 85-73 Big 12 road victory at Kansas Tuesday night.

It was the first win by the Red Raiders at historic Phog Allen Fieldhouse in 18 tries, the Associated Press reported.

A good argument can be made that the Red Raiders won the game with their perimeter defense.

Kansas hit 17 of 35 three-point shots in a 92-86 win at Texas on Friday night.

Texas Tech didn’t allow the defending conference champions to shoot like that two games in a row, limiting the Jayhawks to 6 of 26 from long distance .

As a result, the 18th-ranked Red Raiders improved to 13-1 overall and 2-0 in conference under second-year coach Chris Beard.

The 10th-ranked Jayhawks, under veteran coach Bill Self, fell to 11-3 and 1-1.

“It’s impossible to stop ’em,” Beard said. “You just try to contain ’em, and you try to contest shots.

“Like, the way they shot the ball in Austin the other night, they’re not going to get beat, cause Texas did a good job contesting most of ’em. They’ll play on the final Monday (of the NCAA tournament, if they shoot well).

“You got to be fortunate and tonight, we were. They got some good looks. We made some mistakes on switches. So we were fortunate tonight. But you got to give our guys credit. I did feel like there was a sense of urgency to guard the three-point line.”

Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham led all scorers with 27 points, but he didn’t have much help.

In contrast, ten players played for the Red Raiders and nine of them scored.

Senior Keenan Evans led Texas Tech with 15 points. Justin Gray, Norense Odiase and Jarrett Culver added 12 apiece. Zhaire Smith scored 11.

Texas Tech’s Chris Beard: My players have made me better

Texas Tech freshman Zhaire Smith throws down a dunk off a rebound to fire up the home crowd in Lubbock.

With second-year coach Chris Beard at the helm, the Texas Tech Red Raiders have started to assert themselves as a potential threat in the Big 12 Conference. This is something of a surprise considering that Tech was picked seventh in the conference’s preseason poll.

But since the season started, the Red Raiders have been much better than advertised. They’ve forged a 7-1 record with victories at home over two ranked opponents. Two weeks ago, Tech emerged as a Top 25 team itself, showing up at No. 22 in the Associated Press poll.

After a 10-point loss to Seton Hall, the Red Raiders fell out of the rankings for a week, only to re-appear on Monday at No. 24. Now, it’s starting to look like they might be a fixture in the national spotlight.

Buoyed by an energized fan base and by a group of talented athletes playing hard for him, Beard could be poised for a big season. Tech’s latest triumph came last Tuesday when it rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to beat Nevada, 82-76, in overtime.

More than 9,000 fans at United Supermarkets Arena roared as Keenan Evans scored 25 of his career-high 32 points after intermission. Beard credited the fans, his players and his staff for making it happen.

“You got to give the players a lot of credit,” he said. “These guys have made me a better coach. I’m kind of a competitive, fiery guy. Patience isn’t one of my strengths. But I think with these guys, I’ve really tried to learn to try to keep the culture positive during the game. Now, we still tell the truth. If we’re not playing well, I’ll be the first to tell ‘em.

“But I think overall, as a coach, you try to give your team a chance to win the game. I give our staff a lot of credit. We didn’t have any panicked timeouts. We didn’t get negative. We stayed positive. I’m proud of our staff for doing that. We gave our players a chance to win the game tonight. Give our players all the credit. They’re the ones that did it.”

Tech clearly has more going on this season than in Beard’s first, when the Red Raiders finished 18-14. The Red Raiders started 11-1 through the non-conference phase of the schedule last year, but they did it against a weaker schedule.

This year, the Red Raiders have defeated two Top 25 opponents (Northwestern and Nevada), and they also knocked off Boston College. The Eagles aren’t ranked but they did beat previously undefeated and No. 1 Duke last weekend.

Tech’s only loss came on Nov. 30 in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Seton Hall of the Big East hit 11 three-pointers and scored 50 points during the second half. Asked after the victory over Nevada whether his team learned a few lessons in defeat, Beard said they did.

“Just like every team in the country, we’re a work in progress,” he said. “We’re trying to get better. The Seton Hall game, we didn’t think we were the most aggressive team. Tonight (against Nevada), I think we were. And even if we lose this game tonight to a really good Nevada team, I still think the same thing. I thought we were aggressive enough down the stretch to give ourselves a chance.”

Beard said the Red Raiders did a better job of keeping their composure against the Wolf Pack.

“Against Seton Hall, it turned into a 6-7 minute game (and) we made too many mistakes. We didn’t make enough plays,” he said. “Tonight, when it turned into a 6-7 minute game, we’re still making mistakes. But I thought we were making plays. You know, victory favors the more aggressive team. Sometimes, you got to go make a play, especially at this level. I thought we did that tonight.”