It’s Time To Recognize Keenan Evans As One Of Nation’s Elite Players

LUBBOCK, TX - JANUARY 13: Keenan Evans
LUBBOCK, TX - JANUARY 13: Keenan Evans /

After Keenan Evans’ 31-point outburst Saturday at South Carolina, fans around the nation, should be aware of the fact that the Texas Tech point guard is one of the best players in the nation.

It was another tough road game against a physical team coached by a legend for Texas Tech on Saturday.  And though the opponent was from the SEC rather than the Big 12, the Red Raiders found themselves in another intense battle of wills.  Ultimately, South Carolina and the SEC learned what folks in the Big 12 have known all season, Keenan Evans is one of the best players in the nation.

The senior point guard from Richardson, Texas scored 31 points (one shy of his career high) grabbed three rebounds and dished out three assists in leading the Red Raiders to a 70-63 win in the annual Big 12 / SEC Challenge. In doing so, Evans and his team did something that no other Big 12 team could do on Saturday, win a road game against an SEC foe.

"“We just had Keenan make some plays.  That’s what great players do.” Chris Beard said following his team’s second-consecutive comeback win in a week.  “He just put the Superman cape on a few times.”"

21 of Evans’ points came in the second half when Texas Tech and South Carolina traded the lead four times.  And it was an Evans three-pointer with 2:15 to play that gave the Red Raiders the lead for good at 62-61.

For much of the second half, this game looked like it might play out in the same frustrating manner that so many Texas Tech road games have in the Chris Beard era with Texas Tech unable to find someone to hit the big shots down the stretch that would help them steal a close game.

Fortunately, Keenan Evans did what a senior should.  He put his team on his back.

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Saturday’s performance drew high praise for USC head coach Frank Martin who led his team to the NCAA Final Four last season.  Not surprisingly, Martin had as much appreciation for the defense Evans played as he did for Evans’ scoring.

"“Their point guard just didn’t let our point guards drive and he drove it and scored 31 and we scored [4 points].” Martin said. “Old boy [Keenan] Evans came in here and didn’t let them lose.”"

So when a coach as highly regarded as Martin goes out of his way to heap praise on an opponent, people around the nation are likely to pay attention.

While Evans is sixth in the Big 12 with 17.9 points per game, his value is not measured in the stat sheet but rather in the moments that define greatness.  Evans has been at his best when his team has needed him most.  With the game on the line, there is not a player in the Big 12 that Texas Tech fans would rather have with the ball than Keenan Evans.

Multiple times this season, Evans has single-handedly brought his team back from second-half deficits.

In December, he had a career-high 32 points as Texas Tech rallied from a double-digit second half deficit.  In that game, the Red Raiders’ entire offensive game plan down the stretch was to let Evans isolate off the dribble and get to the rim where he scored 25 points in the second half and overtime.

Against then No. 2 West Virginia, Evans had 11 points in the second half to help the Red Raiders erase a 13-point deficit en route to a 72-71 win.

And earlier this week, Evans was once again the hero.  With Texas Tech down by as much as 15 points to Oklahoma State, he dropped 22 of his game-high 26 points after halftime to lead the Red Raiders to a win.

After that performance, Beard called Evans one of the best shooters he has ever coached.  While the Texas Tech head coach is prone to hyperbole when speaking to the media, the reality is that Keenan Evans is one of the best closers Texas Tech has seen in at least a decade.

In the end, the national accolades will go to players with video-game stats who shoot the ball 25 times a game.  That’s probably just as well for the even-tempered Evans.  Other players can rack up the gaudy stats and have the spotlight for now.

Texas Tech fans know that Keenan Evans will be there when it matters most.  He’ll be the one with the ball at the end of the game…and hopefully at the end of March.