FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — It took 12 games for Texas Tech to win its first — and only — Big 12 game last season, but the Red Raiders took care of league newcomer TCU 62-53 on Saturday in the conference opener for both teams.
The win — also Tech's first conference road win since February 19, 2011 — was cause for celebration in what first-year coach Chris Walker called an elated postgame locker room.
"It definitely feels good — we got one under our belt, and this is something to build on," forward Jordan Tolbert said. "Everybody came out and played their roles, and we executed everything that was in the game plan. If you execute, you should expect to win."
Jaye Crockett scored 13 points, including two free throws with 25 seconds left that staved off a late TCU rally. Dusty Hannahs scored 12 and Tolbert added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Red Raiders (8-4), who have won three in a row and were playing their first road game of the season. With the win, Walker became the first Texas Tech head coach to win a conference opener on the road in his first season since Dell Morgan in 1933.
"We had eight players who had never played in a Big 12 game, and that's got to be a concern," Walker said. "I tell our guys every time, even if they make shots and make free throws, it comes down to two things — we must play harder and more together than TCU.
"They played as hard as they've played all year, and they played as together as they've played all year."
The Red Raiders also stuck to the game plan, which was to try to keep TCU's leading scorers, Kyan Anderson and Garlon Green, out of the game. Anderson and Green combined to make just 3 of 22 shots and had five turnovers.
Instead, it was up to Devonta Abron, starting for the first time since Dec. 4, and Adrick McKinney to led the Horned Frogs. With those two in the starting lineup together for the first time this season, Abron led the team with 16 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, while McKinney had eight points and seven rebounds. TCU had a three-game win streak snapped.
"The only thing they did defensively that other teams haven't done is they chose to make our posts beat them," TCU coach Trent Johnson said. "Devonta did a good job of being aggressive. . You can't fault our effort. The bottom line is our margin of error is extremely slim. We have to defend and rebound, and we can't have bad starts to games."
TCU went 6 minutes without a basket in the first half, making only three free throws, while Texas Tech went on a 14-3 run for a 23-11 lead, Tech's largest of the half. Crockett started that run by dunking an inbound pass from Trency Jackson. Later in the run, Crockett slammed down a dunk on a pass from Josh Gray.
TCU got back in an offensive rhythm with a quick 11-3 run that included a nice reverse layup by Abron. Hannahs hit a 3-pointer with 6 seconds to go to extend the Red Raiders' lead to 29-22 at the half.
In the second half, Jackson's layup with 8 minutes to go was Tech's third straight basket and gave the Red Raiders their largest lead to that point, 50-37.
A Nate Butler Lind jumper with 6:53 to play gave TCU its first field goal in 5½ minutes, but it was followed by Crockett's monster one-handed slam, then a TCU turnover that forced Johnson to call a timeout. Hannahs knocked down his fourth 3-pointer of the game for Tech's largest lead of the game, 57-41. Hannahs, a freshman, hit 4 of 5 3-pointers in the game.
TCU had a frantic late rally, going on a 12-1 run that included three fast-break layups, but Crockett's free throws helped seal the win for the Red Raiders.
"He's just an energy guy, he has a motor," Walker said of Crockett. "He's been our heartbeat all year — he's playing great, with a swagger and toughness. I can't be any happier with Jaye Crockett and what he's contributing to the team."
After shooting 43 percent from the floor in the first half, the Horned Frogs made just 10 of their 33 shots after halftime.