Texas Tech fends off LSU rally, snaps eight-game skid
In his first start of the year, Kerwin Walton ensured it would be a memorable one in a Texas Tech uniform.
Walton, a transfer guard from North Carolina, displayed his shooting prowess that made him a dangerous player on the offensive end and added an extra hint of defensive intensity as he faced off against LSU in a road contest as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
The 6-foot-5, 200-pound guard scored and tied a season-high 17 points, making 5-of-6 shots from the three-point line, while freshman Elijah Fisher netted three of his five total points in the final 1:16 to help the Red Raiders down the Tigers 76-68 inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La.
“He is a guy who works every day in the gym on his three-point shooting. If anybody deserved to have a night like he did, it would be him,” Texas Tech coach Mark Adams said of Walton. “He went 5-of-6 from three and he is just a guy who is very dedicated to working on his game. There is no surprise for what we saw today, what a great performance.”
Kevin Obanor led the way with 22 points, while De'Vion Harmon (14 points) also chipped in on offense. Fisher, who finished with five points, added nine rebounds and a block to his stat line.
"He just had a strong will to win," Adams said of Fisher, who logged a season-high 22 minutes in the victory. "We're proud of him, and I think it will be a confidence builder for him and the team."
All of this without Pop Isaacs (sprained ankle) and Fardaws Aimaq (bruised foot), who did not make the trip to continue their rehabilitation treatment in Lubbock.
With the victory, Texas Tech (11-10) snapped an eight-game losing streak and avoided being below .500 overall for the first time since Tubby Smith’s second season when TTU fell to 12-13 overall and 2-10 in Big 12 play after a 71-53 loss to then-No. 8 Kansas on Feb. 10, 2015.
“This win was significant for a lot of reasons,” Adams said. “We needed the W and to get it on the road was even better. I thought we played very good basketball for most of the game. I thought we did well on both ends and shared the ball.
“We had individuals who really stepped up. Kevin (Obanor) really stepped up and showed his leadership. He had over 20 points and played his heart out. Our bench played well and of course Kerwin Walton had a good night for us as well. It is encouraging for us to see these young guys play the way they did tonight.”
Rather than enduring another loss, the Red Raiders learned to close out a game and dished the eight-straight loss to the Tigers (12-9), which shot 37% from the field.
LSU appeared ready to snap its seven-game losing streak after Derek Fountain made a layup to knot thing up at 51-51 with 10:17 left in the second half. The Tigers erased an eight-point halftime deficit, which put the Red Raiders in a familiar situation — giving up a halftime lead before enduring a loss at the final buzzer.
But, things changed and Texas Tech did not suffer the same fate.
After seeing LSU build its lead to five points (56-51), the Red Raiders clawed their way back until Walton hit his fifth three-pointer that not only provided TTU with the advantage — the last of 12 lead changes — but ignited a 12-2 run that put Tech up 69-60 with 2:48 left in the contest.
It was just enough scoring cushion to fend off the pesky Tigers, who were led in scoring by Adam Miller (20 points) after making five three-pointers. KJ Williams notched 14 points and nine rebounds, while Fountain chipped in 10 points.
“I am proud of these guys. Obviously, it has been a really tough January for us,” Adams said. “We have been in every game except one and have not been able to finish them. It was great to see these guys get off to a great start and then finish. They made free throws and made plays down the stretch to help us win so it is certainly a confidence builder. I am happy for these guys they certainly deserve it.”
What's next: Texas Tech (11-10, 0-8) is slated to host No. 12 Iowa State (15-5, 6-2) at 8 p.m. Monday. The Cyclones dropped a 78-61 home decision to Missouri as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Texas Tech fends off LSU rally, snaps eight-game skid with SEC-Big 12 Challenge win