LUBBOCK, Texas – Texas Tech junior Kevin McCullar scored a career-high 24 points and had nine rebounds to help lead the Red Raiders to an 88-62 win over Grambling on Friday at the United Supermarkets Arena.
The Red Raiders (2-0) owned a 41-23 rebounding advantage, finished the game 22-for-29 from the free-throw line and hit 10 3-pointers. Bryson Williams was also one rebound shy of a double-double, finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds while Davion Warren scored 19 points on a night where he went 7-for-7 from the free-throw line.
“I thought we made some steps forward from our last game,” Texas Tech coach Mark Adams said. “That’s what you want to try to prove every game out. I thought our defense was a little bit better. We forced some turnovers and were able to score off our defense late in the second half. I thought our rebounding game was consistent, that made some huge strides.”
Tech didn’t trail for the second straight game to start the season and is now 2-0 for the seventh straight year. The Red Raiders will host Prairie View A&M at 7 p.m. on Monday to complete a three-game home stand to begin the season before heading to South Padre Island next weekend for a game against Incarnate Word.
“The chemistry is definitely coming along,” McCullar said. “We’re playing with a whole new team in a way. I think we’re heading in the right direction.”
“”I see that we all play together,” Warren added. “When coach is always getting on us in the huddle about defense, we are trying to find a solution. We try to get right on defense. We tried to get them to speed up and to throw lazy passes, so we could get on their passing lanes and get on the rim.”
McCullar scored his career-high 24 points by going 9-for-18 from the field and also hitting three 3-pointers. A junior from San Antonio, McCullar had 16 points in a win at Texas last season for his previous career-high and was only one rebound short of his third career double-double.
“It’s a collective unit,” McCullar said. “We got crashers on our team and we got guys who can go get the balls off the rim. That’s how we’re trying to play this year and be more physical and be the tougher team on the glass.”
Williams was coming off a season-opening 22 points in the win over North Florida on Tuesday and opened the game against Grambling by scoring the first six points for the Red Raiders. He would go 6-for-9 from the field and four of his nine rebounds were on the offensive end of the court. Warren, who averaged 21.2 points per game last season at Hampton, dropped 19 points on the Tigers by going 5-for-7 from the field to go along with his perfect night at the free-throw line. He also was 2-for-3 on 3-pointers and led the team with two steals and took three charges.
“Free-throws are very important,” Warren said. “That’s pretty much the easiest shot you’re going to get all game. If we knock those free-throws down, there is no telling what the game would have been at the end. If we were close, we could have won just by making all our free-throws. Free-throws are very important from the beginning of the game until the end.”
Adonis Arms and Kevin Obanor had nine points each in the win, while Sardaar Calhoun added five. Arms added a spark off the bench with a pair of dunks and joined Mylik Wilson and McCullar with the team lead in assists with three. Tech finished the game with 17 assists on 28 made baskets and shot 45.9 percent from the field.
Texas Tech led 44-31 at halftime with McCullar leading the team with 12 points, while Williams and Warren each had nine points. McCullar and Williams both had five rebounds to lead the Red Raiders who had a 22-12 rebounding advantage through the opening 20 minutes of play. TTU was only 4-for-18 on 3-pointers at the break with McCullar hitting two and Arms and Obanor one each. The halftime margin of 13 was the largest lead of the opening half for Tech which finished the half on a 6-0 run that was capped by a pair of McCullar free throws with three seconds remaining. Kingsby led GSU with 14 points by going 5-for-5 from the field in a half where the Tigers were 11-for-21 from the field. TTU was 10-for-30 from the field going into the break.
“I told them to quit shooting three’s, lets be patient, lets move the ball,” Adams said. “Typically, the 2-3 zone’s not a great defense but you have to be patient against it and you don’t want to turn the ball over. We still struggle with that, with our patience. If we could just get the ball side-to-side and attack the middle things seem to work well for us. Again, give [Grambling State] a lot of credit. We’ve got to go back to work on that 2-3 zone and then they threw that 3-2 [zone] at us and I think we made a pretty good adjustment on that. [The 3-2 zone] didn’t bother us as much late in the game.”
Danya Kingsby led Grambling with 22 points by going 7-for-9 from the field and hitting three 3-pointers. The Tigers fell to 0-2 on the season and will play New Mexico on Monday before travelling to Ames, Iowa to play Iowa State on Sunday, Nov. 21.