In the past two games, Justin Gray has developed a more aggressive attitude on the offensive end of the floor.
The Texas Tech senior reaped the benefits as he scored six points, including a layup that jump-started a double-digit run in the second half, as the No. 7 Red Raiders defeated Iowa State 76-58 on Wednesday at United Supermarkets Arena.
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Holding onto a 57-53 lead with about seven minutes left, Gray watched two Cyclone defenders faked out by a pair Zhaire Smith pump fakes before he caught a no-look pass and scored his layup. The score was the catalyst to a 17-3 run, which allowed the Red Raiders to cement their 15th win in designated home games this season."It just shows how much grit we have as a team," said Gray, who is averaging about one steal per game this season. "Through times of adversity, we stick together. And in good times, we stick together no matter what. It's just very important that we can see how we respond to certain adverse situations as far as: losing a lead, or being down a certain amount."
And while his contributions can be seen a bit easier in the points column, the 6-foot-6 guard has found other ways to help the No. 7 Red Raiders (20-4 overall, 8-3 in the Big 12) forge a five-game winning streak.
Gray, along with teammate Keenan Evans, have recently been in a battle for the lead of the charge board. The white board, which contains the names of all 15 active members of the Red Raiders squad, has kept tabs on all of the players who put their body in prime position to take a charge throughout the course of a game.
Texas Tech makes it straight!— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) February 8, 2018
Zhaire Smith scores a career-high 21pts in the No. 7 Red Raiders’ 76-58 win over Iowa State! pic.twitter.com/gvlkKokNsZ
In Gray's case, he took drew charges against TCU on Feb. 3 and at home against then No. 2 West Virginia. Under both circumstances, his play may not have drawn the attention a slam dunk or 3-pointer would garner, but it fired up head coach Chris Beard and his teammates on the bench.
"Personally, for me, I don't really idolize myself on number of points scored," said Gray, who is one of four players averaging more than 20 minutes per game this season. I know I affect the game in many different ways. ... Just kind of being the team leader out there, being the glue guy. Whatever it takes. If I need to score, I'll do that. If need to play defense, I'll do that. Takes charges, whatever the team needs me to do, I'm willing to do it because I'm here to win."
Kansas State (17-7, 6-5) is certainly in the same mode after winning five of its last seven games.
The Wildcats, who concluded a two-game road trip in Big 12 play, earned a 67-64 win over Texas on Wednesday.
In the victory, five Kansas State players finished in double figures: Dean Wade (16 points), Cartier Diarra (13), Barry Brown Jr. (11), Xavier Sneed (11) and Makol Mawien (10).
Also of note: Kamau Stokes, who injured himself against Texas Tech in the previous matchup, played 14 minutes and dished out three assists to help the Wildcats snap a two-game losing streak.
"I think they basically have an all-conference backcourt," Beard said of the Wildcats. "And then Wade's really developed into one of the best players in the Big 12. Just everybody on their roster is playing great and at a high level. They've overcome an adverse situation with Stokes' injury. And now he's back. Just a program we have a lot of respect for."
Zach Smith is doing his best to reacquaint himself in a new role: motivator and extra coach.
The senior forward, who suffered a broken bone in his right foot against Kansas State at home earlier in the season, is making his way on the road to recovery.
On Thursday, Beard did not have much of an update but did provide a small timeline of when he and the team may gain more news about Smith's short- and long-term future.
"In terms of the injury, no updates," Beard said at his Thursday press conference. "Think the cast is coming off, or has come off. Maybe even (Thursday) as a matter of fact. Then I think they wait a couple of days, X-Ray it and see where we go from there."
This article is written by Carlos Silva Jr. from Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.