LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - Texas Tech’s Devaugntah Williams would not let his team lose Friday night.
The senior guard scored 26 points, including five straight during a key late second-half spurt, to power the Red Raiders to a 77-73 victory over High Point in the season opener for both squads Friday night.
With the win, Texas Tech improved Tubby Smith’s record to 5-0 against his alma mater.
“It’s a good win for us against a very good team,” Smith said. “It was a hard-fought game. It’s hard to simulate the intensity level that you have to play with against a good team like High Point. . But we’re very happy to get a good win. I think it’s just what the doctor ordered.”
Lorenzo Cugini finished with 15 points and Anthony Lindauer, who was 3 for 5 from the 3-point line, finished with 14 points for the Panthers. John Brown, the preseason Big South Player of the Year, fouled out with 13 points.
“You may not see him play that often, but he’s a key part to our team,” High Point head coach Scott Cherry said of Brown getting into foul trouble. “He’s tough to guard. And even if he doesn’t have the ball in his hands, people are really paying attention to him which opens up everything else for the rest of the guys on the team.”
Justin Gray, who drained a pair of free throws to put Texas Tech ahead 75-71 with 12.2 seconds left, ended the game with 12 points for the Red Raiders.
“It feels great to be out there with my brothers,” said Gray, who is returning from a knee injury that kept him out since last January. “Just having fun with everybody and getting the crowd involved. It was a special night tonight.”
Trailing by three points (68-65) with three minutes left in the second half, Williams drained one of his four 3-point shots to knot the game at 68-68. The senior guard later recorded a key steal and dunked the ball with one hand.
“The whole night I’m telling them (teammates), we not losing this game,” said Williams, who scored 18 points in the second half. “It’s just one of them games where they kept competing. But we wasn’t going to back down.”
After Texas Tech’s Norese Odiase made a layup to open up the scoring, High Point bounced back with a 9-0 scoring spurt that put the Panthers up 9-2 with 13:45 left in the first half.
“We had a gameplan coming in, and I thought it was successful for the most part,” Cherry said. “We really tried to force them to shoot perimeter shots. Statistically it worked, but it just didn’t work in the results.”
The Red Raiders sliced the deficit to one point (17-16) following a jumper by Williams with less than seven minutes to go in the first. About a minute later, Devon Thomas notched a jumper to give Texas Tech an 18-17 lead - its first since a 2-0 advantage 30 seconds into the game.
The rest of the first half was neck-and-neck all the way to the break.
Thomas, who finished with nine points and two rebounds, connected on a coast-to-coast layup that gave the Red Raiders a 29-25 lead with about two minutes before halftime.
But the Panthers bounced back by going on a 6-3 run - including a 3-pointer by Cugini at the buzzer - to trail by one, 32-31 at halftime.
“That’s how our team is built,” Cherry said of his squad. “It’s built around John (Brown) and we’ve got guys surrounding him that are capable of making shots.”
In the final 20 minutes, the Red Raiders outscored the Panthers 45-42.
The biggest difference was defense as Texas Tech held High Point to 34 percent shooting from the field in the first half compared to 58 percent in the final stanza. The Red Raiders shot 51 percent from the perimeter Friday night.
“I think they exposed one of the weakness we’ve been talking about for awhile and that’s containing the dribble-drive,” Smith said. “But we made shots. If you can shoot 50 percent against most people, we’re going to be in the ball game.”
Texas Tech competes in the Puerto Rick Tipoff from Nov. 19-22. The field includes Miami, Utah, Temple, Mississippi State, Minnesota, Butler and Missouri State.
High Point hosts North Carolina Wesleyan at 4 p.m. EST Sunday.
Texas Tech: Tubby Smith is very familiar with High Point - defeating his alma mater on four previous occasions. The Red Raiders made it five wins for Smith, who graduated from High Point in 1973, on Friday night. In the previous four contests, Smith won by an average of 29.75 points per game. “It was a good win against my alma mater,” Smith said. “We were happy to have them here and, again, I wish them the best. I know they’ll have a great year.”
High Point: Senior forward Josh Brown, who has amassed 1,680 points in his career, entered the 2015 season as the No. 3 returning scorer in the nation. The redshirt senior also the active leader in field goals made at 646. He fouled out with 13 points, six below his season average from a year ago, against Texas Tech on Friday.
With a 26-point effort Friday night, Devaugntah Williams recorded his seventh game with more than 20 points in a Red Raiders uniform.
The Texas Tech basketball team committed 17 turnovers against High Point. It was a sore point for Smith to “The 17 turnovers I’m not happy with, at all,” Smith said. “One of our goals is to keep it under 10 and we haven’t been able to do that, yet.”
Justin Gray, who returned to the lineup after a knee injury kept him out since last January, scored all 12 of his points in the second half.
High Point’s Lorenzo Cugini missed only one 3-pointer in the first half, going 4 for 5 over the first 20 minutes. The senior forward, who finished 5 for 7, also drained a trey from the top of the key before the halftime buzzer went off.
John Brown, who was 1 for 5 from the free-throw line, drained two free throws to tie the game at 65-65 under the four-minute mark of the second half. The senior ended the game 3 for 7.
Texas Tech’s Devon Thomas jumpstarted a stagnant offense by going on a 4-0 mini run under the seven-minute mark of the first half. Trailing 17-16, Thomas drove down the middle of the lane, lost handle of the ball but regained control to make a jumper to give the Red Raiders an 18-17 lead at the 5:51 mark - it’s first since a 2-0 advantage 30 seconds into the contest. The junior guard followed that up by draining a pair of free throws to increase the lead to 20-17.
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