LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - Keenan Evans scored 23 points, Justin Gray had his first career double-double and Texas Tech won its sixth straight, 89-46 over Nicholls State on Wednesday night.
Gray finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Red Raiders (9-1), who shot 55 percent and outrebounded the Colonels 43-18. Zach Smith and Niem Stevenson added 13 points apiece.
“I’m not forcing it as much anymore,” Evans said. “Just letting the game come to me. Just letting it work through the offense.”
The Colonels (5-6) were led by 18 points and five rebounds from Jahvaughn Powell.
Texas Tech’s (9-1) first half was punctuated by consecutive putback dunks from Gray and Smith. After Smith’s dunk, which put Texas Tech up 33-15 with 6:22 left in the first half, the Colonels immediately took a timeout. Gray - who recently returned to the team after attending his grandfather’s funeral - added another explosive putback dunk less than two minutes later, helping build the Red Raiders’ 45-23 halftime lead.
“I feel like we fed off it pretty good,” Gray said of the dunks. “Got the crowd into it. Especially during the timeout right after the first one. Everybody was kind of hyped up and it just made our overall environment in the arena crazy.”
Nicholls State shot 34 percent from the floor and lost the points off turnover margin 33-13 despite have just six more giveaways.
The Red Raiders, which outscored Nicholls State in the paint 34-6, committed six fouls. The Colonels attempted six free throws while Texas Tech attempted 25.
“In our league, we can’t let people get in the bonus early in the halves,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “Not fouling is a big emphasis. We try to emphasize it in practice. We try to coach it well. I think we do.”
Nicholls State: The first game in Richie Riley’s tenure as head coach of the Colonels was a 79-73 win at Atlantic Coast Conference-member Boston College in November but they have won consecutive games only once this season.
Texas Tech: Smith was back in the starting lineup Wednesday. Smith, who averaged 11 points and seven rebounds, injured his ankle before the Dec. 7 game against Texas-San Antonio and was held out. Smith’s presence aided the Red Raiders frontcourt, which saw recently-recovered Aaron Ross play sparingly and is still missing Norense Odiase because of an injury.
Big 12 men’s basketball teams have started the season with a combined 75-17 record. Ten of those losses were by single digits, including three in overtime.
For the first time in Big 12 history, its teams beat two top-five non-conference opponents on the same day when Kansas beat No. 1 Duke and Baylor beat No. 4 Oregon on Nov. 15.
Nicholls State has three players that hail from outside the United States: Luka Kamber (Germany), Liam Thomas (Australia) and Zach Young (New Zealand).
Nicholls State, which has played three Power 5 opponents this season, has two more games before it begins Southland Conference play. It hosts Mobile on Dec. 18.
Texas Tech, starting with a game at Richmond on Saturday, has two more games before Big 12 play starts.
“It’s a game that (former Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith) scheduled,” Beard said. “I think they had Richmond here last year. Right when I got the job and saw the schedule, I loved the game. Richmond is an NCAA-tournament type team.”
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