Top Five Texas Tech Basketball Games of 2017-18 Season

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23: Keenan Evans
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23: Keenan Evans /
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It has now been a week since the Texas Tech basketball season came to an end and many Red Raider fans are still trying to adjust to life without Chris Beard press conferences and Zhaire Smith dunks.  So to help ease us into the offseason, let’s take a look at the five best games of this historic season.

The 2017-18 Texas Tech basketball team is now in the record books as the team that put together the best season in program history.  The Red Raiders’ 27 wins were just one shy of the program record set in 1995-96 and their 11 Big 12 wins were the most Tech has recorded since the inception of the league in 1996-97.

With the success came a renewed love affair between fans and Texas Tech basketball.  But now that the season is over, fans may be left feeling hollow as they face over seven months with no hoops being played in the United Supermarkets Arena.

So for those not wanting to bid this season goodbye just yet and those already counting down the days until Zharie Smith, Jarrett Culver and the team return to the court, lets take a look at the five best games of the 2017-18 season.

Game No. 5 – Texas Tech beats Purdue to Advance to Elite 8

Sometimes, games are great not necessarily because of their competitiveness but because of their significance.  Such is the case with Texas Tech’s win over Purdue in the Sweet 16.

The game itself was one of the most comfortable NCAA Tournament games any team could ask for.  Building upon a 30-25 halftime lead over the second-seeded Boilermakers, the Red Raiders cruised to a 78-65 win thanks to an complete team effort.

Making this game unique was the fact that Keenan Evans was not called upon to play hero in the  waning moments as he was so often in 2017-18.  Instead, an unexpected duo helped pick up the scoring slack.

Senior forward Justin Gray scored 12 points (tied for his second-best scoring game of the season and seven points more than his season average) while fellow senior Zach Smith came off the bench with 14.  In just his 8th game after returning from a broken foot, Smith played his best game of the season and showed why he was picked as a 1st-team preseason all-Big 12 selection.

Smith was a key for Texas Tech which utilized him as the only post player in a small lineup for most of the second half.  The Plano, Texas native was all over the court with five rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal.  Plus, his athleticism (as well as that of Justin Gray and Zhaire Smith) seemed to frustrate Purdue’s 7-foot-3 freshman Matt Haarms to the point that Haarms and his teammates were demonstrably agitated on the bench.

Speaking of Haarms, his role as the villain in the game added another element of joy for Texas Tech fans.  The native of The Netherlands quickly became a focal point of the media because of his abnormal height and especially because of his penchant for running his hands through his GQ-esque haircut.

As the television broadcast continued to give Haarms the pseudo Trae Young treatment, showing him on camera as much as possible, even when he was just sitting on the bench, Texas Tech fans quickly grew to hate a player they will probably never face again.

Thus, the fact that Tech held him to just four points in 23 minutes of action added an extra sweetness to the victory.  But what made this game special, of course, was the fact that it was the first time the Red Raiders had won a Sweet 16 game.

At times in the past, Texas Tech fans have felt like they would never get past the Sweet 16.  The best team Texas Tech had previously fielded, the 1996 team, won all 28 games it played before running into a legendary player in Allen Iverson of Georgetown in the Sweet 16.

Then, in 2005, Bob Knight’s best team ran into a hot-shooting West Virginia team led by the un-athletic looking (and even more un-athletically named) Kevin Pittsnogle who had the game of his life with 22 points to knock off the Red Raiders.

Then, with a month to go in this season, Tech’s leading scorer Keenan Evans broke his toe and the once-promising season looked to be in peril.  Fortunately, Evans was able to play through the pain and regain his form in time for the tournament.

And finally, Texas Tech caught a break in the Sweet 16; literally.  Purdue’s star center Isaac Haas broke his elbow earlier in the tournament and was not able to play, severely hurting Purdue’s ability to play its style of basketball.

But give the Red Raiders credit.  They capitalized on the opportunity and behind Keenan Evans’ 16 points, Tech finally won a third game an NCAA Tournament.  While the game was far from a nail-biter and lacked the drama of others on this list, the game will forever be one of the best in program history for what it meant; Texas Tech was finally elite.