With one week remaining in the regular season, the 18th-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders got a much-needed 68-59 win over No. 14 Texas on Saturday.
The Red Raiders had been in freefall coming into this matchup with three consecutive losses amid a raft of schedule changes. They are in seventh place in the Big 12 standings but have gotten back to .500 in conference play thanks to their win over Texas.
Texas entered Saturday's Big 12 matchup ranked fifth in the conference standings but has now lost five of its past eight games. The Longhorns were unable to sustain their momentum coming off Tuesday's overtime win against Kansas.
It looked early on like this was going to be a defensive struggle. Texas Tech ended any drama by going on a 17-6 run to start the second half that turned a 33-33 tie into an 11-point lead.
Mac McClung didn't have his best game of the season, but he overcame a slow start to score a game-high 16 points. Kevin McCullar had a strong all-around day with 10 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Notable Game Stats
- Mac McClung (Texas Tech): 16 points (4-of-13 FG; 2-of-4 3-PT FG), 4 rebounds
- Kevin McCullar (Texas Tech): 10 points (3-of-6 FG), 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists
- Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech): 11 points (5-of-7 FG), 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
- Jericho Sims (Texas): 11 points (4-of-5 FG), 7 rebounds
- Andrew Jones (Texas): 8 points (2-of-8 FG), 6 rebounds
- Matt Coleman III (Texas): 10 points (3-of-6 FG), 6 assists, 3 rebounds
McCullar, Stifling Defense Carry Red Raiders to Victory
On a day when McClung was struggling to find his shot early, McCullar was able to step up for the Red Raiders offense. The sophomore tied his season high with four steals and shot 50 percent from the field for the fifth time in the past seven games.
McClung shot just 2-of-7 with five points in the first half. One of those two makes was a three-pointer that fired him up and gave Texas Tech a 25-24 lead with just under five minutes remaining before halftime.
Shooting was a problem for the entire Red Raiders squad in the first half. They made just 11 of their 25 field-goal attempts, and the score was even 33-33 at halftime.
Texas Tech stormed out of the gate in the second half, though, making eight of its first 13 attempts from the field. An 11-2 run helped the team open up a 50-39 lead with 12 minutes to play.
While McClung gets most of the attention for Texas Tech as the team's leading scorer, McCullar has proved himself to be an invaluable player for head coach Chris Beard.
Ryan Mainville of the Daily Toreador had this to say about McCullar's impact prior to last week's game against Kansas:
McCullar led the Red Raiders with nine points and three assists in the first half. He hasn't been a great shooter overall with a 42.6 field-goal percentage entering Saturday, but his all-around skill set helps drive this squad.
This win did a good job of showcasing the depth on this Texas Tech team. Four of the five starters scored at least 10 points. McClung had as many points through seven minutes of the second half as he did in the entire first half.
ESPN's Joe Lunardi has Texas Tech as a No. 6 seed and trending down in his most recent bracketology update. Saturday's win is a huge boost to the team's resume with three regular-season games left, including a showdown with No. 2 Baylor on March 7.
Second-Half Collapse Costs Texas
The first half against Texas Tech was one of the best stretches the Longhorns have played all season. The defense was doing a good job of containing the Red Raiders' best scorers, and the offense was shooting 50 percent from the field (12-of-24).
Even though Texas had to settle for a 33-33 tie going into the intermission, head coach Shaka Smart had his team in position to make a strong run over the final 20 minutes of regulation.
Instead, the Longhorns came out of the locker room ice-cold and didn't get back on track before the game got out hand. They went 5-of-25 overall from the field in the second half.
Backup forward Brock Cunningham, who entered play averaging 1.4 points per game, was doing a little bit of everything for the Longhorns in the first half.
Eventually, though, Cunningham's inabilty to shoot made him a liability on the offensive end. He didn't even attempt to contest Terrence Shannon Jr.'s drive to the basket when Texas Tech was in the process of opening up a double-digit lead.
Cunningham was far from the biggest problem for Texas in defeat, though. Andrew Jones, the team's leading scorer with 15.4 points per game, was held to eight points on 2-of-8 shooting. Jericho Sims and Matt Coleman III were the only starters who made more than two field goals.
The Longhorns were able to battle back late in the second half, cutting the deficit to 59-56 with 3:20 to play. They missed their last five field goals to stall their comeback attempt, however.
Texas has two games remaining against unranked opponents, but a matchup with No. 7 Oklahoma on March 4 looms large for a team in need of a marquee win heading into the Big 12 tournament.
Texas (14-7) will travel to Ames for a matchup with Iowa State on March 2 at 7 p.m. ET. Texas Tech (15-8) will host TCU on March 2 at 7 p.m. ET.