KANSAS CITY, MO. — Jarrett Culver showed a glimpse of the future.
Texas Tech’s 6-foot-5 freshman guard embraced his position Thursday under the bright lights of the Big 12 Tournament inside the Sprint Center.
Culver, who has been a catalyst on both ends of the floor, sparked the No. 14 Red Raiders early by scoring the first seven points of the game, while Keenan Evans netted 18 in the second half, to help power Texas Tech to a 73-69 win over Texas in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament.
It marked the first time Texas Tech (24-8) has advanced to the semifinals of the tournament since 2005. The Longhorns (19-14) will hope to be part of the NCAA Tournament when the selections are made this weekend.
Thanks to a strong performance from Jacob Young, the Longhorns were able to close within 55-54 following a Matt Coleman layup by the 7:55 mark of the second half.
Three minutes later, Zhaire Smith helped turn a four-point swing in favor of the Red Raiders.
The 6-5 freshman used all of his speed and wingspan to block what looked to be an easy layup by Kerwin Roach II on one end of the floor before Evans drove in for a bucket to take a 62-57 advantage with 3:44 to play in the second half.
Texas center Mohamed Bamba, who was a game-time decision to play, completed an alley-oop dunk to close the Longhorns’ deficit to 64-61 before the Red Raiders were able to find a way to salt away their first conference tournament win since 2013.
“I thought Mo played well,’ Texas Tech Shaka Smart said of Bamba, who finished with 10 points and four rebounds in 14 minutes. “It was back and forth, whether he was going to be able to play. … The trainer told me he could play 10 minutes. It’s tough as a coach, 10 minutes. It’s a 40-minute game, he’s a really good player.”
The Red Raiders got off to a hot start thanks to Culver, who scored the first seven points of the game. The former Coronado standout came out aggressive on the offensive end, driving from the right and left side before scoring on a pair of layups. Culver ended his mini-run by stepping back and draining a 3-point goal.
After a Zhaire Smith layup, Texas Tech jumped out to a 9-0 advantage with a little more than 16 minutes to play in the first half.
The Longhorns, who started off shooting 0 for 9 from the floor, found their rhythm as the first half progressed.
Roach got things going by making a jumper that ended a scoring drought and allowed Texas to begin chipping away at what eventually turned into a 22-8 margin.
Culver notched seven points, while Evans chipped in seven as well, to help Texas Tech enjoy a 35-28 lead at halftime.
Evans finished 25 points, while Young led Texas with 29 points.
“He does that all the time in practice,” Smart said of Young’s sharpshooting. “That was the guy we recruited a couple of years ago. … The challenge for him is playing with poise and being calm and collected when things get frantic. And I thought tonight he did that. He took a real step.”
Player of the game
Keenan Evans, Sr., Guard, Texas Tech
For the second straight game, Evans netted double figures in the second half. The 6-3 guard 18 of his 25 total points in the second stanza to guide the Red Raiders to another monumental win.
With the win, Texas Tech snapped a five-game losing streak in the Big 12 Tournament. … This is also the first time Texas Tech has advanced to the semifinal round since 2005. The Red Raiders own a 1-3 record in that round. … Texas’s Jacob Young recorded a career-high 29 points and made three-pointers (six) in the loss. Young and Kevin Durant are the only two Longhorns players to notch at least 29 points in a Big 12 Tournament game.
Texas Tech is scheduled to play the winner between Baylor and West Virginia. The game did not finish before the Avalanche-Journal’s print deadline. The Red Raiders split the regular season series with both squads.