LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Freshman Zhaire Smith led Texas Tech with 14 points in his debut and the Red Raiders pulled away from South Alabama for a 75-50 season-opening victory Friday night.
Smith is among a group of four freshmen expected to contribute on a team that currently features five senior starters. Two of those starters, Tommy Hamilton IV and Keenan Evans, scored 12 apiece.
Zach Smith, another senior starter, scored just one point but led the Red Raiders with four steals as they held the Jaguars to 30 percent shooting on just 46 attempts. South Alabama attempted 30 free throws, making just 15.
Texas Tech coach Chris Beard in his second year after one season at Little Rock, a Sun Belt rival of South Alabama's.
"Evidently he's really upped his free throw defense game because we couldn't make a free throw tonight," South Alabama coach Matthew Graves joked.
Davide Moretti, a freshman from Italy, was Texas Tech's other double-digit scorer with 10 points.
Zhaire Smith put Texas Tech ahead for good at 29-27 on a 3-pointer and added a 3-point play on the Red Raiders' next possession.
"They're fun to coach," Beard said of his younger group. "A lot of frustration, too, a few gray hairs here and there. I'm glad we've got these young guys. They're going to be a big part of this year's team.
Jordan Andrews was 7 of 7 from the line and scored 15 points to lead South Alabama, which went nearly six minutes without a field goal in the second half as an eight-point deficit grew to 17 at 54-37 with just under 10 minutes to go.
South Alabama: The Jaguars figure to struggle early after losing five of the top six scorers from a 14-18 team. Josh Ajayi, last year's leading scorer and rebounder, was held below both averages with just two points and four rebounds.
Texas Tech: If the opener is any indication, coach Chris Beard will be mixing and matching his lineups early. Nine players got anywhere from 16 to 24 minutes. The rebounding load was shared as well. Brandone Francis led with six boards.
South Alabama had 24 turnovers with just two assists. "Those numbers are a little bit watered down because they had some great passes and guys missed some shots," Beard said. "The turnovers, that's by design. We put some different presses out there tonight to speed up the game."
WHERE YA BEEN
It was the first meeting between the schools since splitting a home-and-home set during the 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons. The home team is now 3-0 in the series.
South Alabama: The home opener is Monday against Mobile.
Texas Tech: Another home game against Maine on Tuesday before a pair of neutral-site games at Uncasville, Connecticut, as the Naismith tip-off tournament continues.
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