Texas Tech basketball: Comeback falls short in OT loss to Creighton

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 05: Head coach Chris Beard of the Texas Tech Red Raiders looks on during practice prior to the 2019 NCAA men's Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 5, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 05: Head coach Chris Beard of the Texas Tech Red Raiders looks on during practice prior to the 2019 NCAA men's Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 5, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

In Friday night’s 83-76 OT loss to Creighton in Las Vegas, the Texas Tech basketball team was unable to complete a massive second-half comeback.

In the Texas Tech basketball team’s second game in the Las Vegas Invitational, the Red Raiders learned a lesson that the Tech football team had to learn in 2019; falling into a huge hole early is no recipe for success.  For the second-straight night, a poor shooting first half and a lack of execution defensively put Chris Beard’s team at a double-digit deficit at the break for the second-straight game and just like in Thursday’s loss to Iowa, the Red Raiders could not claw their way out of a loss.

Davide Moretti notched 23 points and Chris Clarke added 17 but their efforts were not enough in an 83-76 loss to Creighton, the team’s second-straight defeat in Sin City.  Led by a career-high 32 points from guard Marcus Zegarowski, the Bluejays out of the Big East built as much as a 19-point first-half lead and carried a 14-point cushion into the intermission.

For the second-straight game, the Red Raiders were victimized by awful first-half shooting while their opponent couldn’t miss.  Creighton made 7-11 shots from deep in the first 20 minutes while Tech started the game 1-10 from deep.  That came one night after both teams shot 4-23 in losses to set up this consolation game matchup.

But after the break, the Red Raiders clawed back and tied the game for the first time in the second half at 61-61 with 9:47 to go.  From that point, the game took on the feel of an NCAA Tournament contest with the teams trading big shots and fighting for the ball in mad scrambles.

Trailing 74-66 with 2:29 left to go, Beard’s team closed the game with eight-straight points to knot the game at 74 apiece.  And after a steal with three seconds to play, Red Raider fans felt like Moretti was fouled at half court as he tried to maneuver for a last-second heave.  However, no foul was called and the game went to overtime.

That’s where Creighton took over with six-straight points to begin the extra five minutes.  In all, the Bluejays outscored the Red Raiders 9-2 in the extra frame.  It was a repeat of Thursday’s loss to Iowa in that the young Red Raiders could not make the winning plays, could not hit critical shots, could not grab loose balls and rebounds with the game on the line.

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After returning to the floor after a second-half scare that looked like it could have been a knee injury, Creighton guard Ty-Shone Alexader made three free throws late to seal the win.  The junior finished with 18 points with three of his five made baskets coming from 3-point range.

Once again, the long ball was a problem for the Red Raider defense.  Creighton hit 10-24 (41.7%) shots from behind the arc while the Red Raiders were just 8-30 (26.7%).  In the two-game set in Vegas, Tech shot 54 times from 3-point range and hit only 12, that’s just 22.2% and that isn’t going to cut it.

One positive was that Beard saw his team share the ball more effectively with 19 assists on 29 baskets.  That was a better showing than the loss to Iowa in which Tech had just 12 assists after entering the game as the leading team in the nation in that category with 22 per game.

Still, the offense clearly missed freshman leading scorer Jahmi’us Ramsey who did not play after sustaining a left hamstring in injury on Thursday.  Grad transfer Chris Clarke got the start in his place and had his best showing as a Red Raider with nine assists and seven rebounds.

But that meant that Beard’s bench was less of a factor.  In fact, the Red Raiders received just 12 points off the bench with freshman Andre Savrasov leading the way with six points, which came on back-to-back 3s in the second half, shots that actually ignited his team’s rally.

Tech now sits at 5-2 ahead of Tuesday’s trip to take on undefeated DePaul in Chicago as part of the first-ever Big 12/Big East Challenge.  Hopefully what the Red Raiders learned in Friday’s battle with another Big East foe grizzled them for that challenge because this team now faces the prospect of a 3-game losing streak.

This is already the first time since 2016-17 that the Red Raiders have lost multiple games prior to the start of Big 12 play.  In each of the past two years, Tech has gone 11-1 to begin the season with both losses coming to Seaton Hall and Duke respectively, both at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

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But no one expected this year’s team to have such an easy go of things in the non-conference portion of the schedule.  With nine newcomers and seven freshmen, there was never a question of whether or not this team would hit some early bumps in the road.  The question is how long will it take before we see the defending Big 12 champions get those bumps smoothed out.