LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Texas Tech ended its 3-point drought when it mattered most, sinking two in the final 2 minutes on Saturday to secure its first win against Texas since 2008.
“We’ve lost so many close games, to finally win one like this, it probably does our soul good,” Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said. “It does me some good and maybe we can build on this going into the tournament. We have some energy and some confidence.”
Jaye Crockett scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Texas Tech to the 59-53 over the Longhorns in a regular-season finale.
“What can you say? It’s been neat watching him develop,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “You look at his line, he’s the most impressive guy on the floor.”
Jordan Tolbert added 11 points, three steals and grabbed five rebounds for the Red Raiders (14-17, 6-12 Big 12), and Robert Turner added nine points, five rebounds and three assists.
Martez Walker led Texas (22-9, 11-7) with 13 points and five rebounds, and Cameron Ridley added 12 points and five rebounds for the Longhorns.
The Red Raiders were down 44-37 with 9:23 left, but Crockett, a senior, wasn’t ready to watch the last home game of his career slip away.
“I was just telling the team, especially the second half, ‘We only have 20 minutes,’ especially the seniors, 20 minutes in this gym left to play,” Crockett said.
Tech pieced together an 18-4 run as Tolbert followed a Crockett 3-pointer with one of his own with 1:07 left to make it 55-48 and put the game out of reach.
“It was clutch, (Tolbert’s 3-pointer) was huge,” Crockett said. “I just knew he was going to shoot it, we were just talking about it. He had that look like ‘I’m shooting it no matter what, whether it’s 35 seconds or 2 seconds on the shot clock.’ He sank it and we needed it.”
Seniors Jamal Williams Jr. and Kader Tapsoba joined usual starters, seniors Crockett and Dejan Kravic and junior Turner, in the starting lineup for senior day.
“I’m really happy for our seniors to get this win,” Smith said. “It’s always a special time, it’s always a memorable moment to win your last home game in your career and no one deserves it more than Jaye Crockett. He’s put a lot of hours on this court. He’s spent a lot of time in this arena and I’m just happy and proud that I had the good fortune to coach him.”
The two teams exchanged buckets in the early minutes of the game and paced through a slow defensive battle. Tied 8-8 with 13:19 in the half, Texas worked to try to pull away, but couldn’t widen the gap by more than six and took a 23-21 lead into the half.
It was the same back-and-forth battle in the opening minutes of the second half until the Red Raiders finally broke through for their first lead in almost 17 minutes with a Tolbert dunk to put them up 29-27 with 16:35 to go.
The lead didn’t last long as Walker, Ridley and Connor Lammert kept Texas within reach before a 7-0 run, capped off with a Walker 3-pointer with 12:19 left, put the Longhorns back in front 38-33.
The teams exchanged buckets for a few minutes until a Marcus Holland layup bumped the lead to seven, the Longhorns’ largest of the night, 44-37, with 9:23 to go.
Tech’s Kravic displayed athleticism for a 7-footer when he saved a would-be out-of-bounds ball that found its way into Randy Onwuasor’s hands. Onwuasor missed an off-balance layup but Kravic answered with one and drew a foul to set up a possible 3-point play.
The shot from the line didn’t fall but the fans at the United Spirit Arena began to sense that a comeback might be brewing.
Toddrick Gotcher made a pair of free throws to cap off an 8-1 run and tie it 45-45 with 6 minutes to go.
The crowd erupted when Crockett slammed down an alley-oop from Gotcher with 4:45 to go to put Tech up 49-46.
“Coach is always telling us you can’t just play for 35 minutes or 39 minutes, you’ve got to play for 40 and I think we did that tonight,” Crockett said. “That’s when you need everybody to come together and play hard in that last 5 minutes. That’s when you have to buckle down and just give your all. You don’t get these games back.”
Jonathan Holmes then made a pair of free throws to cut it back to one until the home crowd and the home team took over when Crockett drained a 3-pointer with just a few seconds left on the shot clock to boost Texas Tech ahead 52-48 with 1:56 left in the game.
Tolbert followed suit with a 3-point shot that swirled through the net and secured the win with 1:07 to go as the junior became the 37th Red Raider in history to score 1,000 career points.
The two late 3-pointers were the only ones of the game for the Red Raiders, who were 2 of 12 from long range.
Texas was forced to foul but the Red Raiders’ ace free-throw shooter, Dusty Hannahs, made all four in the final minute to send the seniors out in style.
Despite making obvious progress in his first year as Texas Tech coach, Smith, with a 14-17 record, is facing his first losing season in 23 years of being a head coach.
“I’m obviously disappointed that we lost this game, but I really am happy for Tubby,” Barnes said. “I’ve known Tubby for a long, long, long, long, long time. I think it’s great what he’s done to rekindle the spirit out here and the fire, and Tech is obviously lucky to have gotten him.”