Climbing out a funk took a different approach for No. 23 Texas Tech, which snapped a season-long three-game losing streak with a 66-59 victory over visiting UCF on Saturday in Lubbock.
The Red Raiders (17-6, 6-4 Big 12 Conference) never trailed and leaned heavily on defense to prevail against one of the stingiest teams in the league.
Joe Toussaint’s two free throws with 41 seconds to go gave the Red Raiders some breathing room with a five-point advantage after the Knights (13-10, 4-6) edged within 58-57 with 2:07 to go.
Darrion Williams (13 points, 13 rebounds) extended the Texas Tech lead to 60-57 when he stepped into a mid-range jump shot from the free-throw line at the 1:52 juncture.
UCF had two possessions with a chance to get closer, but the Red Raiders defense came up big by forcing a turnover and when Warren Washington blocked a shot in the lane.
The Knights struggled to find any consistency on offense most of the day. They shot just 36.5 percent (23 of 63) from the floor and were abysmal from beyond the 3-point arc, missing 19 of 24 attempts. Texas Tech also controlled the boards with a 44-37 advantage.
The Red Raiders weren’t much better, shooting 38.3 percent (23 of 60). Leading scorer Pop Isaacs managed only seven points on 2-of-13 shooting, while Toussaint was 2 of 10 from the field.
But the Texas Tech defense held its own and matched the league’s best shot-blocking team with two rejections and also matched the Knights with five steals.
Jalyin Sellers and Darius Johnson led UCF with 14 points apiece, but neither got comfortable with the ball in their hands. Sellers was 5 of 13 from the floor and was charged with three of the Knights’ eight turnovers, while Johnson was just 4-of-13 shooting and struggled with foul trouble most of the second half after getting tagged with his fourth midway through the period.
The Red Raiders carved out a 31-25 halftime lead with Kerwin Walton providing a spark by hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers.
UCF was 1 of 14 from deep in the opening 20 minutes.
–Field Level Media
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