Texas Tech 78, UCLA 66
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)—Ronald Ross lit up the first round of the NCAA tournament the same way he did the Big 12 tourney last week.
Ross scored 28 points—after getting 28 and 22 in the last two games of the Big 12—to lead Texas Tech to a 78-66 first-round victory over 11th-seeded UCLA on Thursday night. Not that 78 points in three games for the senior guard should be a surprise. Just ask his coach.
“Ronald Ross has been a good player for us for four years,” Bob Knight said. “It isn’t like all of a sudden he just hatched and we put him in the lineup. He hasn’t broken out of an egg here recently. He has played very well and he’s gotten better and better each year.”
Ross’ backcourt mate Jarrius Jackson scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half.
“Our guards have been the hub of our offense all year long,” Knight said. “If they don’t score, we’re not going to have a real good offensive effort.
The Red Raiders shot a season-best 62 percent (32-for-52).
“Everybody was feeling good and just knocking down shots,” Jackson said.
Texas Tech (21-10) improved to 2-2 in NCAA tournament games since Knight came to Lubbock four seasons ago. Knight, meanwhile, is 44-23 in 27 NCAA appearances, but it was only his fourth victory in 12 tournament games since 1995.
The sixth-seeded Red Raiders play No. 3 seed Gonzaga, a 74-64 winner over Winthrop, in the second round of the Albuquerque Regional on Saturday.
UCLA (17-12), with its lowest seed ever on the 10th anniversary of its last national championship, never led but stayed close until a 12-2 run put Texas Tech up 76-61.
Devonne Giles added 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds.
Dijon Thompson scored 22 for UCLA. Josh Shipp added 13 points. Jordan Farmar had an awful night, going 1-for-9 from the field, 1-for-5 from 3-point range and 0-for-2 at the foul line.
“We couldn’t get over that hump,” Thompson said. “Either we turned the ball over or they made a big basket. Those guards were phenomenal. I’m not satisfied with the season but I’m proud with how we came back and fought, because no one expected us to make it this far.”
Texas Tech never trailed in the first half, but the Bruins managed to tie it four times, the last at 29-29 on Shipp’s fast-break layup with 4:18 to go. The Red Raiders outscored UCLA 8-2 the rest of the half, capped by a pair of inside baskets by Damir Suljagic in the final minute, to go up 37-31 at the break.
Texas Tech shot 57 percent in the first half (16-for-28) to UCLA’s 50 percent (13-for-26), but the Bruins shot just 38 percent in the second half, compared with the Red Raiders’ 67 percent (16-for-24).
Many of the shots were easy ones. Texas Tech had a 48-28 advantage in points in the paint.
“We were out there really trying to screen for each other and create opportunities for each other,” Ross said. “That really helped everybody and we were able to play well offensively.”
The Red Raiders scored the first eight points of the game and were up 12-3 after a pair of jumpers by Giles. The Bruins responded with a 14-5 surge, tying it at 17-17 on consecutive 3-pointers by Brian Morrison and Thompson with 11:45 to play in the half.
Darryl Dora’s stuff shot punctuated a 6-0 spurt that gave Knight’s team a 45-36 lead with 17:13 left.
UCLA’s last gasp came when Arron Afflalo was fouled on a 3-point try, and made all three free throws to cut Texas Tech’s lead to 64-59 with 6:32 to play.
Giles followed with a tip-in, Jackson made an 18-footer and the Red Raiders were on their way to Knight’s 853rd career victory, 26 shy of Dean Smith’s NCAA Division I record.
“They did a great job offensively,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “Their guard play was very good. They were getting a lot of screens set for those guards.”
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