On the biggest stage against its toughest opponent, Texas Tech was unable to get it done against Seton Hall on Thursday night in Madison Square Garden.
The final score was 89-79, ending a six-game winning streak and perhaps the greatest start to a season this program has ever experienced.
Coming into the matchup, the Red Raiders found themselves ranked for the first time this season at No. 22 in the AP Top 25. They also won every game by double digits, the first in program history to do so.
The Red Raider effort was led by Keenan Evans' 21 points and six assists, leading the team in both categories. He was joined in double digit scoring by fellow seniors Niem Stevenson and Zach Smith. Stevenson scored 10 points, dished out four assists, grabbed three rebounds, and nabbed one steal to complete a stat sheet-stuffing game. Smith did him one better by tallying similar numbers in those same categories while adding two blocks as well.
The bench production once again showed the depth of this team, as they outscored Seton Hall's bench 34-15. They were led by standout freshmen Jarrett Culver and Zhaire Smith. Culver pumped in 17 points and was Texas Tech's only weapon from outside the arc, shooting five of seven from deep. Zhaire Smith made his living driving to the basket, routinely scoring from the paint and getting to the free-throw line while accumulating 11 points. Norense Odiase also made his presence known off the bench collecting a team-high 12 rebounds. That is the highest rebound total by a single Red Raider this season.
The other usual contributors of Justin Gray, Tommy Hamilton, Brandone Francis, and Davide Moretti only combined to score two points.
Tech held the advantage in bench points, fast break points, points in the paint, and points off turnovers, but none of that was able to overcome a blistering hot shooting Seton Hall. This was easily the worst defensive performance by Texas Tech on the young season. They surrendered a season high 89 points while allowing the Pirates to shoot 51 percent from the field and a scorching 55 percent from three.
Leading that charge for the Pirates was Desi Rodriguez. He totaled 24 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists which led Seton Hall in all three categories. Adding in 19 points and 4 assists of his own was Myles Powell. Khadee Carrington and Angel Delgado also chipped in 16 points and 12 points, respectively
After the game, coach Chris Beard explained why he thought Tech lost.
"I think in basketball, victory favors the more aggressive team,” he said. “In the first half, where we were playing better, I thought we were the more aggressive team. We were driving the ball, we were turning down jump shots to try to get something better. Now late in the game, it's hard to keep doing that because you have to take the first shot when you're playing come-from-behind offense. But, I think I can confidently say without watching the film, Seton Hall was more aggressive than Texas Tech tonight. We have to get that fixed."
To that point, the game was very competitive up until the last 10 minutes of the second half. With 9:40 remaining, Tech pulled within three, 65-62. However, the Raider Raiders would then fail to notch another field goal over the next five minutes. Seton Hall took advantage of the drought and pushed their lead to 10 points. It was then Tech trying to play catch up for the rest of the contest, a position the team had not encountered through the first six games of the season.
Up next on the schedule for Texas Tech is Nevada. So far this season, the Wolf Pack are undefeated and present what is likely to be the toughest challenge at home before conference play begins. The game is scheduled for Tuesday, December 5th with tip-off at 7 p.m.