LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Davide Moretti provided the kind of spark No. 12 Texas Tech can rely on from the only returning starter from last season’s national runner-up that now has a bunch of freshmen.
Moretti scored 13 of his 19 points after halftime, including four 3-pointers, and the Red Raiders kept making their free throws to finally pull away for a 72-57 victory over Tennessee State on Thursday night.
“We weren’t scoring the ball very well in first half,” Moretti said. “We weren’t shooting the ball very well throughout the whole game actually. I think it was a game change moment. I got to give credit to my teammates. They found me at the right moment.”
The Red Raiders (4-0) were only up by 35-32 with just under 12 minutes left, and Tennessee State (3-2) had just missed a potential tying 3-pointer, before Moretti sparked the home team. The junior guard from Italy had a pair of 3-pointers while scoring eight points in a row in a 10-3 run. Tech added 11 points in a row, including six free throws, soon after that.
Freshmen Terrence Shannon Jr. and Jahmi’us Ramsey each scored 13 points for Texas Tech. Ramsey, their leading scorer at 17.5 points a game, was only 4-of-13 shooting and missed all six of his 3-point attempts but made 5 of 6 free throws. Shannon was 2 of 7 from the field and 7 of 8 at the line.
“I would much rather learn lessons after a victory than after a defeat,” Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said. “I like the fact that we’re in a close game tonight. I like the fact that we had to make some plays and we had some valuable timeouts. We had some guys step up and those guys got a taste of what the next two or three months are going to be like ... three or four months.”
The Red Raiders, who never trailed, ended up leading by as many as 18 points late despite shooting only 34%. They made 32 of 38 free throws overall, 21 of 25 in the second half.
Kyler Edwards added 10 points for Texas Tech, making up for his 1-of-11 shooting from the field by making all eight of his free throws. Chris Clark was scoreless while taking only one shot in 26 minutes, but he had 12 rebounds and four assists.
Ravel Moody had 12 points to lead Tennessee State, which shot 35%. Wesley Harris and Shakem Johnson each scored 10 points.
“We have a lot of respect for Texas Tech,” Tennessee State coach Brian “Penny” Collins said. ‘I have just as much respect for their head coach. I think he’s a phenomenal coach. One of the best defensive coaches in the country and he showed us why they’re that way. ... I think this Texas Tech team is going to be one of those teams that can surprise a lot of people and get back right where they were last year.”
Texas Tech learned Thursday that the NCAA has denied UNLV transfer Joel Ntambwe’s waiver to play this season.
“I’m really disappointed for Joel,” Beard said. “I’m basically floored by it. Sick stomach all day long. Just feel terrible for him. It’s not my place to put the case out there in a public light, but I’ll tell you that he had a more than legitimate case on why he, I think, transferred from his first institution out of his control. I really don’t understand this.”
The 6-foot-8 forward from Congo started 31 games for UNLV last season.
Tennessee State: The Tigers clawed all night against the reigning national runner-up. A bad shooting night by the Red Raiders kept the Tigers in the game, but fouls proved to be a key contributor to the loss. Tennessee State faced tough competition in their first trip to Lubbock.
Texas Tech: An eight-day break for the Red Raiders may have been a factor in their slow night offensively. Tech’s defense, on the other hand, showed different life with solid press, zone and man coverage.
Tennessee State heads to the West Coast to take on San Diego State on Monday night.
Texas Tech hosts Long Island on Sunday before leaving the state of Texas for the first time. The Red Raiders will spend the Thanksgiving holiday playing two games in Las Vegas.