Inside The Box Score: How Texas Tech Was Able To Defeat Florida

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 17: Zhaire Smith
DALLAS, TX - MARCH 17: Zhaire Smith /

Texas Tech knocked off Florida 69-66 Saturday night in Dallas to move to the Sweet 16.  Let’s look inside the box score to figure out how the Red Raiders were able to advance.

Any time a game ends with one team having two open shots to tie the game in the last twenty seconds of regulation, fans often focus on the final sequence of events.  Such is true of Texas Tech’s victory over Florida in round two of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night.

The final twenty seconds of the game were frantic and exciting as Texas Tech turned the ball over in its own backcourt giving Florida two three-point attempts to tie the game.  However, the game was won in the way that the Red Raiders executed their game plan.  Thus, there are some telling statistics that reveal how Chris Beard’s game plan came together to create a winning formula.


Florida is a tough-minded and aggressive team on both ends of the court.  Loaded with long athletic wing players and quick guards, the Gators averaged 13.8 turnovers forced per game this season.

In round one, UF turned St. Bonaventure over 18 times en route to a 15-point victory.  But Texas Tech was far more careful with the basketball against the Gators.

Tech committed just 8 turnovers against the physical Florida half-court defense.  Limiting turnovers was key in helping the Red Raiders control the Gator’s offensive attack.

Throughout the season. Florida made a living from the three-point arc.  Texas Tech was focused on  containing the Gators’ long-range attack by contesting jump-shots and running shooters off the three-point line.

One way a guard-heavy team like Florida tries to generate open threes is in transition.  If a team can get into its offense off of a turnover and hit a spot-up shooter off a fast break, they can generate an open look before the defense is able to get set.

Texas Tech saw that scenario play out in its February loss at Oklahoma State.  The Cowboys hit six threes in a row to open the second half and almost all of them came in transition.

By holding on to the ball, Texas Tech was able to ensure that it could set its defense and matchup individual defenders with the offensive players as they wanted.  In transition, such options are not possible as players scramble to cover whomever is closest to them and often winding up in mismatches.

Controlling the Tempo

In our Game Plan piece, we discussed how important it would be for Texas Tech to avoid the trap of trying to get into a three-point shooting contest with Florida.  Far too often, teams that play three-point shooting teams make the mistake of trying to match their opponent shot-for-shot.

Doing so would have been a critical mistake for Texas Tech.  The Red Raiders could not afford to hoist quick shots from deep thus speeding up the game to a tempo the Gators prefer.

In fact, that style of play got the Red Raiders in trouble in the first half against Stephen F. Austin in round one.  It was not until Tech decided to attack the basket that the round one game turned in the Red Raiders’ favor.

In round two, Tech took just 15 threes for the entire game against Florida and most of those came late in the shot clock.  Chris Beard prefers his motion offense to pass the ball at least four times before a shot is attempted and Tech lived by that mantra.  Doing so kept the pace manageable and ensured quality shots.

For the game, Texas Tech was judicious from deep going 6-15 while Florida was more liberal with its attempts going 6-22.  Tech was able to play the style of game it prefers and keep the score under 70 points.

"…we wanted to control the game with our offense, tempo-wise.” Chris Beard said post-game. “So with the game in the 60s and even at halftime, even though we were down one point, we felt comfortable with the pace. We weren’t going to beat Florida in the 80s or 90s, but we could play with them at this tempo game.”"

On the season, Texas Tech was the 224th slowest paced team in the nation with their games averaging 70.4 possessions.  On the other hand, Florida was quicker averaging 70.9 possessions per game.

Tech knew that 8 of the Gators’ 12 losses headed into the game came when UF failed to score at least 70 points.  Tech controlled the pace of play and in a one-possession game, limiting the number of possessions was critical.

Small Ball

One of the best virtues of this Texas Tech team is its versatility.  With a roster full of 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-9 athletic forwards, Chris Beard can employ a wide variety of lineups.

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That versatility was increased with Zach Smith returned from a broken foot that cost him almost all of the Big 12 season.  Smith adds a rim protector to Tech’s small-ball lineup  and that unit was relied upon heavily against Florida.

Beard realized early that Tech’s big men Norense Odiase and Tommy Hamilton were defensive liabilities and he quickly turned to Zach Smith as his lone post player. Odiase and Hamilton combined for just 5 minutes while Smith played 22 minutes, tied for his most action since returning to the court.

Smith did a little bit of everything for Texas Tech.  He had six points, three rebounds an assist, a steal and a block.  More importantly, his length altered a number of Florida shots and drives to the rim while his agility allowed the Red Raiders to switch defenders on ball screens.

Next: Texas Tech Advances To Sweet 16

Against Purdue, Texas Tech will need Odiase and Hamilton to come up big against potentially two centers over 7-feet-tall.  However, Tech would not be facing the Boilermakers if it were not able to go to a smaller lineup in the second round.