Keenan Evans keeps making big plays, extending Texas Tech’s season — and his time with second-year head coach Chris Beard.
They have another game with the Red Raiders headed to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005.
Evans, who treats every game like senior night and doesn’t want to be done, scored 22 points and hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2 ? minutes left as third-seeded Texas Tech beat Florida 69-66 on Saturday night.
“As clock runs down, you look at it like, ‘I don’t want my season to be over.’ These guys are the same way,” Evans said about the other Tech seniors.
While the next loss will end All-Big 12 guard Evans’ career, high-flying freshman Zhaire Smith is just getting started.
Smith had 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and was on the receiving end of an alley-oop pass from Evans with 29 seconds left for a punctuating dunk to send the Red Raiders (26-9) to Boston for a matchup against Purdue or Butler next Friday night.
“He has no ceiling,” Evans said of Smith.
Chris Chiozza did go the length of the court for a Florida layup with 25 seconds left before Evans lost the ball when trying to fight through a double-team after the inbound pass.
The Gators gathered the ball after a wild scramble. Egor Koulechov and KeVaughn Allen both had 3-point attempts in the final 10 seconds that came up short.
Florida (21-13) fell short of the Sweet 16 — and the Elite Eight — for the first time in their last six NCAA Tournament appearances. The last time they didn’t even make it to the Sweet 16 was in 2010, when the SEC team lost a first-round game to BYU.
Jalen Hudson led third-year coach Mike White’s Gators with 23 points. Koulechov had 12 and Chiozza, their All-SEC point guard, had 11.
Texas Tech quickly erased a five-point deficit midway through the second half with nine straight points. Evans scored nine of those, and Smith — wo had a 360-spin alley-oop dunk from Evans in the tourney opener Thursday — delivered a follow-up slam.
Evans drove the baseline for a reverse layup put the Red Raiders up 51-50. After Smith’s slam, Evans had a nifty spin move for a jumper and then added a three-point play after that.
Jarrett Culver, the hometown freshman for Texas Tech, had 11 points and nine rebounds.
Texas Tech hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since Beard was an assistant coach for Bobby Knight. But this is only the third NCAA appearance since for the Red Raiders.
After his time coaching on Knight’s staff, and then for Pat Knight, Beard left Tech for more than a decade before coming back two years ago when Tubby Smith left for Memphis.
Just weeks before returning to Lubbock, after briefly holding the UNLV job, Beard’s Arkansas-Little Rock team upset Purdue in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament as part of 30 wins in his only season there.
The Boilermakers, who on Sunday play for a chance to get to the Sweet 16, surely remember that.
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