Texas Tech men’s basketball heads to Brooklyn with a 2-0 record in the Progressive Legends Classic after a 68-54 win over South Dakota State on Thursday night.
The Red Raiders took the lead 15 seconds into the game off a baby hook shot by senior forward Dejan Kravic, who scored six out of the first eight points for Tech.
Texas Tech never trailed, and the Jackrabbits didn’t make it an easy game.
With 5:50 remaining in the game, South Dakota State senior guard Brayden Carlson nailed a three pointer to cut the Tech lead to six, 56-50, but sophomore guard Dusty Hannahs answered right back, draining a trey of his own to up the Red Raiders’ lead to nine.
“In a game like that where they’re making a comeback and you’re not shooting as well as you want from the outside, they’re taller and bigger than you are, shot selection becomes critical,” head coach Tubby Smith said. “Dusty’s a very good shooter. That was the only field goal he had for tonight. He didn’t get many good looks. I thought their length took away a lot of his looks, and that’s why he was driving the ball to the basket because he was getting out on them quickly. But that shot was huge. It broke the momentum that they had. It kind of gives you the intensity.”
Junior forward Jordan Tolbert led the way for Texas Tech with 19 points, nailing a pair of threes, and was one rebound shy of a double-double.
“I’m glad I hit that one,” Tolbert said. “That gives me a lot of confidence and made me comfortable, so I’ll shoot a lot more during the season.”
Hannahs and senior guard Jaye Crockett were the only other Red Raiders in double figures with 12 points and 10, respectively.
Hannahs led the way at the free throw line shooting nine-for-nine, making that 15 in a row over the past two games.
Overall, Texas Tech was 13-of-15 from the line, shooting 86.7 percent.
“That’s an area we’ve been struggling with,” Smith said. “Only four guys shot free throws. I guess the right guys were shooting free throws tonight. That’s probably why we’ve shot so well. We’ve worked hard on that.”
For South Dakota State, Carlson was the leading scorer with 14 points; followed by junior forward Cody Larson with 12 and senior guard Chad White with 11.
Senior forward Jordan Dykstra came into the game averaging 17 points per game but only scored seven against Tech.
For the third game in a row, the Red Raiders were out-rebounded, 33-32, and the Jackrabbits scored 13 second-chance points on the evening.
“We need to start blocking out,” senior forward Kader Tapsoba said. “They shot a lot of threes so they had long rebounds. Our guards need to rebound as well. That will help.”
Deflections have been a key stat for Smith and his team with a total of 35 as a goal.
“We had 15 at halftime,” Smith said. “I think we had close to 40 tonight. It’s a good indicator that we’re being aggressive and active. We did come up with 10 steals, so we probably had more than 40 deflections. If you can get 35-plus deflections, you’ve got a good chance of winning the game.”
So far this season, Smith wants his team to go inside, and that the Red Raiders did, scoring 34 points in the paint while shooting a season-low 11 shots from behind the arc.
“That was the game plan,” Tolbert said. “Go inside and try to get easy baskets.”
The Red Raiders fly out for New York today and will face Pittsburgh at 6:30 p.m. CT on Monday and either Stanford or Houston on Tuesday.
“We’re not on vacation,” Smith said. “It’s a business trip. That means you come ready to work. We’re going to try and do some sightseeing, maybe go to Ground Zero, things like that that are meaningful and historical. Otherwise, we’ll practice. We’ll try to get to a pro basketball game, watch the Nets play. Experience the culture of the Big Apple. It’ll be a fun time.”
As long as the team doesn’t get stuck in the airport.
“The last time I was in New York,” Tapsoba said, “I got stranded in the airport for 24 hours.”