FORT WORTH, Texas — No. 10 Texas Tech had firm control of its game at TCU before top-scoring guard Keenan Evans even took a shot.
“It wasn’t odd at all. I felt like I was making the right passes, and the team was rolling and making shots,” Evans said. “When we’re winning, that’s all I care about.”
Jarret Culver scored 12 of his 20 points before halftime, including consecutive 3-pointers in an early 18-0 run, as the Red Raiders beat TCU 83-71 on Saturday for their fourth straight victory and a share of the Big 12 Conference lead.
Desmond Bane’s three-point play for TCU tied the game at 9 before the big run the next 4 minutes by Texas Tech (19-4, 7-3 Big 12), which started the second half of league play by matching Kansas atop the standings after the Jayhawks lost at home earlier Saturday against Oklahoma State.
“To me, I’ve always said the conference race doesn’t really start until February, so we’re 1-0 in the Big 12 and we’ll see what happens this month,” coach Chris Beard said.
“That’s something we’ve been thinking about since the summer,” Evans said about a possible Big 12 title before making his coach’s point clear. “We’re more thinking the next game. We’re not trying to think past anybody.”
Evans entered the game as Tech’s top scorer, and second in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma freshman Trae Young, at 18.6 points per game. His first shot against TCU didn’t come until there were 6½ minutes left in the first half, and his first make 2 minutes later was a 3-pointer for a 37-18 lead.
“We have a lot of players that can create and Keenan, he was creating well for the other players in opening up stuff,” said Culver, Tech’s hometown freshman guard .
“Their other guys in transition and open shots … give them credit for other guys making shots,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “I think we left the other guys open so (Evans) didn’t have to shoot it. That wasn’t the game plan.”
Evans still finished with 17 points and six assists , while Zhaire Smith had 12 points.
Vladimir Brodziansky led TCU with 18 points, while Bane had 13. Kenrich Williams had 12 points and 13 rebounds.
The Red Raiders led 48-24 at halftime after Evans made a buzzer-beating jumper, just three days after his winning shot against Texas at the end of overtime.
“They really played as they’ve been playing, defense and guarded, and took good shots and were patient,” Dixon said. “And on the other end, we were the exact opposite, so we got what we deserved.”
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have surpassed last year’s win total of 18 with a month left in the regular season. They already have a win at Kansas, and host both the Jayhawks and No. 12 Oklahoma in February.
TCU: The Horned Frogs have alternated wins and losses for three straight weeks since starting point guard Jaylen Fisher’s season-ending left knee injury. But they hadn’t been outplayed like this all season. Their first six losses had been by a combined 19 points, an average of 3.2 per game.
“I didn’t see this coming,” Dixon said.
Texas Tech surely will stay in the Top 10, and likely move up, when the new AP poll comes out Monday. It will be the fourth time in five weeks the Red Raiders are in the Top 10. The only other time they were ranked in Top 10 four times in the same season was the final four polls in 1995-96, when the Southwest Conference champs made it to the Sweet 16 and finished 30-2.
“Our energy was low from the jump,” Bane said. “It’s just something we have to find within ourselves. It’s a toughness thing. … We’ve just got to come together and come ready to play from the jump.”
Texas Tech goes home to play Iowa State on Wednesday night, the third of four straight weeks with midweek games at home.
TCU plays another Top 10 team, going to No. 7 Kansas on Tuesday night. The Jayhawks held on for an 88-84 win in Fort Worth on Jan. 6.