For the second time this season, the Texas Tech men’s basketball team will get to earn a chance to play in a meaningful game.
The Red Raiders, who have jumped out to a 5-0 overall mark for the first time since 2009-2010, face off against Savannah State at 2 p.m. Saturday inside United Supermarkets Arena. The game will be televised on FOX Sports Southwest Plus.
Texas Tech, fresh off a 79-56 victory over Savannah State, is looking to continue its unblemished pace before playing a neutral-site contest against No. 20 Seton Hall in the Under Armour Reunion game inside Madison Square Garden in New York on Thursday.
But as head coach Chris Beard has told his team earlier in the season, the Red Raiders must earn the right to play in the game.
“Savannah State is a unique team,” Beard said. “They’ve got a style of play that’s non-traditional. They pride themselves in being the fastest-tempo team in college basketball. They shoot almost 40, three-point shots a game. So, just like almost when you get to the postseason, you’ve got to play people on a short prep time and everybody has a different style. This is similar (Saturday), we’re playing against a team that plays in a way that we might not see again all year.”
Texas Tech was up to the task a couple of weeks before: turning back South Alabama and Maine at home before defeating Boston College and No. 20 Northwestern on he way to the 2017 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament title.
As in the previous go-around, the Red Raiders appear ready to prove their worth once again against a 2-3 Savannah State squad.
Red Raider guard Jarrett Culver, a former Coronado standout, turned in a season best performance by scoring 21 points in 21 minutes played. The freshman was also active on the defensive end, denying passing lanes that led to two steals and nabbing three rebounds.
“I love it when he’s a aggressive,” Beard said of Culver, who has notched double-digits games in three of five contests. “When he’s aggressive on the defensive end, it kind of motivates him and kind of spurs his offense to another level. And when he’s aggressive on offense, good things happen.”
Culver sparked the offense and the reserve players, who combined for 46 points in the big win over the Terriers. Senior guard Keenan Evans, who started, chipped in 12 points, five assists and three steals, as well.
“I think what we’re seeing now is a veteran player starting to get to a level where he’s playing with a great consistency,” Beard said of Evans, who has notched 25 straight games in double figures. “No one has ever questioned Keenan’s talent. He’s had huge games all the way back to his freshman year playing for coach (Tubby) Smith. Now, he’s getting himself into a different neighborhood of greatness, and it’s call consistency.
“Stats and offense are what people notice, but defense is how you win. And I promise you Keenan is playing the best defense of his career right now.”
Savannah State, which plays in the MEAC, is a dynamic squad touting three players averaging double figures in points.
Guard Dexter McClanahan leads the way at 17.2 points per contest. The junior has tallied a pair of 20-plus point outings against Middle Georgia State (26 points) and Jacksonville State (22) this season. Alante Fenner (12 points) and Austin Dasent (10.5) round out the double-digits scorers.
The Tigers (2-3) are also a non-traditional basketball team, in that, they like to shoot from beyond the 3-point line. In five games this season, they have averaged 41.2 treys per contest — making 30 percent (61 of 206) of those attempts.
Savannah State had five players finish in double digits in its 101-97 win over Alabama State back on Tuesday.
“So Savannah State, they’re going to try to force the tempo and they want us to turn the ball over, they want us to take quick shots,” Beard said of how to counteract the Tigers’ attack. “So, defense (Saturday) starts with our offense. We’ve got to play intelligent, veteran, you know, March-type-basketball-type offense. Take good shots, move the ball, don’t bail them out with quick shots.
“Then once we get back, we’re got to build a defense that wants to guard the 3-point line. A defense that’s going to help each other. And, ultimately, a defense that’s going to get a rebound.”
Just the facts
Who: Texas Tech Men’s Basketball vs. Savannah State
When: 2 p.m., Saturday
Where: United Supermarkets Arena
Records: Texas Tech 5-0 overall; Savannah State 2-3
Last game: Texas Tech 79, Wofford 56
Last meeting: First meeting between the squads
Notable: Following a 23-point win over Wofford, the Texas Tech men’s basketball team is one of three squads in program history to win their first five games of the season by 10-plus points.
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