Texas Tech Advances to 1st Elite Eight in School History with Win vs. Purdue

Texas Tech's Niem Stevenson, left, and Brandone Francis celebrate during the second half of the team's NCAA men's college basketball tournament regional semifinal against Purdue, Friday, March 23, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Texas Tech’s historic season reached a new high on Friday with a 78-65 win over Purdue, giving the program its first-ever appearance in the Elite Eight. 

This was just the Red Raiders’ third time reaching the Sweet 16 in program history, losing their previous two appearances in 1996 and 2005. 

Keenan Evans led a balanced Texas Tech offensive attack with 16 points in the win. He was one of four Red Raiders with at least 12 points, along with Justin Gray, Zhaire Smith and Zach Smith.

The big story coming into Friday’s matchup was the status of Purdue center Isaac Haas, who suffered a fractured elbow against Cal State Fullerton in the round of 64. 

Purdue head coach Matt Painter answered that question during the pregame shootaround, via CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein:

Haas averages 14.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, ranking second on the Boilermakers in both categories. Taking away that dominant post presence on both sides of the ball gave Texas Tech the opening it needed. 

Zach Smith was a hero off the bench for the Red Raiders. The senior finished with 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting against Purdue after scoring a combined 15 points in the previous two tournament games. 

Texas Tech also took advantage of sloppy play from Purdue’s side. The Boilermakers committed 17 turnovers and gave up 11 offensive rebounds to the Red Raiders. 

Head coach Chris Beard had Texas Tech ready to play. His team showed outstanding ball movement, finishing with 15 assists on 28 made field goals. 

This is only Beard’s second year with the Red Raiders. He transformed them from a program that made one NCAA tournament appearance from 2008-16 to a team that is one win away from reaching the Final Four. 

Talking to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, Beard noted he never anticipated a long rebuilding project after being hired by Texas Tech:

“The story of my life has always been, you’ve got one shot to do this. I just remember as a kid. Where I grew up in Irving, we played [basketball] at two places. … You had to win or go home. … I’ve always thought that in coaching. You’ve got one shot, let’s roll. Because eventually that’s what our sport comes to. When you get to March, you’ve got one shot. The quicker you can get that mindset, it gets you ready for those moments.”

Beard has wasted no time instilling that mindset in his team. This program hadn’t won a tournament game since 2005, when Bob Knight was still the head coach. 

Despite the loss, Purdue sophomore Carsen Edwards went out on a high note. He scored nearly half of his team’s points (30) and made four of their seven three-pointers. 

Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star noted Edwards was the only Boilermakers player on the attack against Texas Tech:

Vincent Edwards did have a solid showing to support Carsen, chipping in 12 points and 13 rebounds, but it wasn’t nearly enough against Texas Tech. 

Now, the Red Raiders face their most difficult test of the season against Villanova on Sunday. The Wildcats are the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and have won each of their three tournament games by at least 12 points. 

This has been a breakthrough season for Beard’s team already, so knocking off the top team in the nation to earn a trip to San Antonio next weekend would be the ultimate feather in his cap.