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Red Raiders may have advantage playing in Dallas

Battle Florida Gators tonight in NCAA's second round

 

March 17, 2018

Dallas Morning News: Louis DeLuca

Texas Tech's Brandone Francis (falling backward) defends Stephen F. Austin's Ivan Canete during Thursday's first round of the NCAA Tournament at Dallas' American Airlines Center. The Red Raiders advanced with a 70-60 victory and will be back at the American Airlines Center tonight to face the Florida Gators.

DALLAS - The Texas Tech men's basketball team passed its first test in the NCAA Tournament, beating Stephen F. Austin 70-60 in the East Region's first round Thursday night at Dallas' American Airlines Center.

Tonight, the third-seeded Red Raiders will play the sixth-seeded Florida Gators in the second round, again playing at the American Airlines Center, which is likely as close to a home game as the Raiders can have in this year's installment of March Madness. The game tips off at 6:40 p.m. Mountain Time. Here's the skinny:

BOTTOM LINE: Texas Tech beat instate opponent Stephen F. Austin 70-60 for its first NCAA Tournament win since 2005, when coach Chris Beard was an assistant under Bob Knight and the Red Raiders went to the Sweet 16. Florida knows a thing or two about the regional semifinals and beyond. The Gators, who eased past St. Bonaventure 77-62 to end the Bonnies' season two days after their first tournament win in 48 years, have reached the Elite Eight their past five NCAA trips.

HOME COOKING: Texas Tech fans filled the home of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks in the city with one of the West Texas school's biggest alumni bases. The advantage will likely be even more distinct against Florida, which had a sparse gathering for its first game about 1,000 miles from campus. The purple of SFA was dwarfed by the Red Raiders contingent, but those backing the Lumberjacks could still be heard.

GO-TO GUYS: There's little question Keenan Evans is the key to the Texas Tech offense, although he often waits until the second half to take over games. He had 19 of his 23 points after halftime against the Lumberjacks. It's a little harder to tell who might carry the load for the Gators. Egor Koulechov was the team's third leading scorer in the past three games with 20 against the Bonnies. Jalen Hudson had 20-point games in the last two of the regular season.

FAMILIAR FACE: Texas Tech guard Brandone Francis was a freshman at Florida for coach Mike White's first season in 2015-16. He transferred after playing in 29 games with two starts and sat out last season. Francis' breakout game for the Red Raiders was a 17-point showing in a win over West Virginia in the first-ever top 10 matchup in Lubbock.

 

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