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Survive and advance, Texas Tech dishes out punch in second half

Culver dominated the Norse for a career-high 29 points

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Northern Kentucky vs Texas Tech Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

After an impressive second-half performance, the Red Raiders outpaced the Norse to secure another game in the NCAA Tournament. Texas Tech came out strong defensively, as all expected, but after a few easy baskets from Norense Odiase the shots stopped going in. There was stark comparisons to the way that the Red Raiders started against SFA last tournament: epitomized by a missed-three pointer from Moretti, missed layups by Mooney, a number of turnovers and going 1-for-8 from the line. The Tech brand of smothering-defensive efforts prevailed, however, and kept them in front of NKU 30 - 26 at the half.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Northern Kentucky vs Texas Tech Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The second half was Dr. Jekyll to the first’s Mr. Hyde - having players heat up from their respective specialties. Tariq Owens found the rim on a few possessions as well as a beautiful jumper near the arc, netting himself 12 points. Davide Moretti also got back in the game after claiming 5 rebounds and 10 points. Matt Mooney became more efficient and claimed 8 assists and 9 points for the Red Raiders. Finally, and most prolifically, Jarrett Culver became an instant sensation in the tournament after reaching a career-high 29 points, accompanied by 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Culver now has the most single-game points scored by a Red Raider in the tournament.

Tech finished the game shooting 52.8 percent from the field with 6 three-pointers, while holding the Norse to one of their lows of 37.1 percent from the field and only 5-for-22 from beyond the arc. The Norse, as a reminder, were one of the better three-point shooting teams in the NCAA. Texas Tech also cleaned up their free-throw game by going 9-for-9 in the second half. Coach Beard commented “we’re trying to win two games in three days. The first game of the tournament is always the toughest. Just really proud of our guys tonight and our team effort. I thought we won this game as a team. I think in the second half, more than any big adjustment, we just wanted to stay aggressive.”

Defense travels and along with Culver’s program-high of points, Tariq Owens joined him by establishing a new defensive standard of five blocked shots in an NCAA game. The previous record was held by Zach Smith for his three blocks against SFA. In his first NCAA Tournament game Owens didn’t shy away from his proficient shot-blocking abilities. This marks three games this season with five or more blocks, bringing his total to 83 on the season.

For the Norse, Drew McDonald came into this game as the Horizon League Player of the Year after averaging 18.7 points and over 9 rebounds per game. Fortunately the Red Raiders were prepared and held McDonald to only five points and one rebound. Their 78.5 averaged points per game this season was equally as dismissed when Texas Tech stopped them at their season-low by winning 72-57. Up next Texas Tech takes the day off before facing Buffalo in the round of 32 at 5:10pm tomorrow evening.