Red Raider nation was able to exhale after watching a close battle between the 3 seed Texas Tech Red Raiders and 14 seed SFA Lumberjacks. SFA jumped out to a slim lead in the first half and stayed ahead for the majority of the game. Tech would go on a 15-3 run to take the lead and close out the game behind Keenan Evans’ 23 points.
Keenan Evans - Speaking of Evans, once again he came alive in the second half. 19 of his 23 points came after halftime, including the layup that gave Tech the lead once and for all. Evans ability to close out a game is second to none, we’ve seen him do this all season long and it looks like he’ll be continuing it in the tournament. The NCAA tournament is the time where players make a big name for themselves and it looks like Evans is next up.
Zhaire Smith - If the tournament is somewhere guys can make a name for themselves, then Zhaire Smith’s name may already be etched in stone. He has already been climbing up draft boards and against SFA, Smith rose up for an incredible 360 alley oop dunk. For anyone who hadn’t heard of Zhaire Smith before they’ve learned about him now, after being all over twitter and being on ESPN’s top 10 plays.
360 ALLEY OOP IN A TOURNAMENT GAME! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? pic.twitter.com/lVCfYhaua4— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 15, 2018
Zach Smith - Zach Smith had arguably his best game since his return. Smith took advantage of SFA’s limited size and became an interior prescence all game long. When Zach Smith went down for injury earlier this season, Tech’s defense took a big hit. We now see that defense from Smith coming back, as SFA had problems down the stretch going in the lane. This inablility kept SFA from sustaining the lead down the stretch when their shots weren’t falling. If Zach Smitch can keep this up, it gives Tech a big leg up when Tech plays a big team like Purdue.
Exterior Defense - This is becoming more than just an occasional occurence for the Red Raiders. Tech has given up big shots to opponents all season long and it is becoming to rear its ugly head in the NCAA tournament. Tech’s strength to run shooters off the line has become a weakness as teams have become better at moving the ball and finding the open shooter. At one point the Lumberjacks hit four three-pointers in a three minute span and pushed the lead out to eight. SFA then went cold and didn’t hit another three for the rest of the game which helped Tech, however going forward that may not be the case. Florida is a team that like the three point ball and if Tech can’t find a way to defend these baskets, it’ll be an even longer day on Saturday.