Jarrett Culver scored 19 points, first-time starter Deshawn Coprew had 13 points and 10 rebounds and No. 11 Texas Tech pulled away from Texas-Rio Grande Valley for a 71-46 victory Friday night in the Red Raiders’ final tuneup before Big 12 Conference play.
Culver and the Red Raiders cranked up their signature defense in the second half, turning a close game into a rout with 12 minutes to go as Texas Tech bounced back from its first loss of the season, 69-58 to top-ranked Duke in New York eight days earlier.
The Raiders (11-1) open their Big 12 season Wednesday at West Virginia.
Terry Winn led the Vaqueros (8-7) with 17 points.
Texas Tech led 38-31 at halftime but didn’t play the same level of defense that has been a staple this season. Rio Grande Valley shot 46 percent (12 of 26) before halftime against the Red Raiders, who came in leading the country in field-goal defense at 33 percent.
Things changed early in the second half. The Vaqueros missed 11 of their first 12 shots in the period, which allowed Tech to extend the lead.
Brandone Francis made two straight baskets, Culver knocked down a jumper and on the next possession grabbed a rebound of his missed 3-pointer and zipped a pass to Coprew for a backdoor layup.
That series of events pushed the Raiders’ lead to 52-35 and prompted a timeout by Rio Grande Valley. The Vaqueros shot 17 percent (4 of 23) in the second half and finished the game at 33 percent.
Tech had threatened to blow the game open late in the first half, stretching the lead to double digits on the strength of a 13-4 run. But the Vaqueros didn’t flinch and drew within 38-31 at the break.
There were seven lead changes and four ties in the initial 7:14.
Rio Grande Valley made seven of its first nine shots. Winn led the way with seven early points, the last one a baseline jumper that made it 17-17.
Rio Grande Valley: The Vaqueros lost for the third time in four games but showed that their pressure defense can create problems, which will come in handy against Western Athletic Conference foes.
Texas Tech: Some holiday rust was inevitable, but once the Red Raiders found their defensive rhythm, they showed why they should be a contender in the Big 12.
Rio Grande Valley: The Vaqueros head west for two games, starting Thursday night at UC Irvine with a nonconference game.
Texas Tech: With most of the nonconference schedule done, the Red Raiders jump into the rigors of Big 12 play Wednesday night at West Virginia.
Source: The Associated Press