Texas Tech is leaving New York City no longer on the list of undefeated teams.
Undefeated no more!— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) December 21, 2018
No. 2 Duke hands No. 12 Texas Tech its first loss of the season! pic.twitter.com/DKW1eB5OqR
But Texas Tech proved it is a serious Final Four contender — just like Duke.
Even though No. 12 Texas Tech fell for the first time this season in the 69-58 loss to No. 2 Duke at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the Red Raiders only cemented their status as a top team. All this coming from a program that reached the Elite Eight last season yet started this season...unranked.
Against a team starring some of the top players in the country, Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver stood out among them all, scoring 25 points on 9-for-21 shooting. But the Red Raiders missed having a second consistent scorer.
Still, Texas Tech has its defense. For much of the game, the potent Duke attack looked earth-bound against the nation's top scoring defense, as the Blue Devils missed their first 14 3-pointers and struggled to score when not in transition. Zion Williamson finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds, and battled tough around the rim, but he fouled out with 3:51 to play. R.J. Barrett scored 16 points, but he finished 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.
However, fellow freshman Tre Jones delivered, totaling 13 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds and six steals. Jack White came off the bench to hit two huge 3-pointers to help Duke pull away.
In the first half, Texas Tech committed an ugly 15 turnovers, leading to easy points for a Duke team that thrives in transition.
But other than that, the Red Raiders had the perfect formula for a win.
- Duke went 0-for-10 on 3-pointers in the first half.
- Duke had 10 turnovers.
- Duke, which ranked No. 5 in the nation in scoring coming in (93.6 points per game), posted a season-low 28 in a half to trail 29-28 at the break.
Like Gonzaga during the Maui Invitational, Texas Tech understood that a huge Duke run would be inevitable. The key is to answer.
Welcome to the Garden, Zion! 💪pic.twitter.com/15lnDsM10S— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) December 21, 2018
So when the Red Raiders trailed 8-0, saw a couple loud Duke blocks and committed three turnovers, coach Chris Beard called a timeout.
Texas Tech played better on offense, even with the turnover problem, and forced Duke to score in the half court.
For a long time in the game, it worked. The Red Raiders led by as many as eight in the second half at 42-34. But the Blue Devils started hitting some shots and holding Texas Tech to empty trips.
Along with Texas Tech showing it belonged among any list of title contenders, Thursday's game showed another thing.
Sure, Duke has a powerful offense. But the Blue Devils' defense might be the secret weapon.