Texas Tech held Kelan Martin in check for a long time Thursday afternoon.
Just not long enough.
The sophomore connected on back-to-back transition 3-pointers to give Butler the lead for good and scored all 11 of his points in the final nine minutes to help the ninth-seeded Bulldogs surge past the eighth-seeded Red Raiders 71-61 in the first round of the NCAA tournament at PNC Arena.
“I know I didn’t score in the first half or the beginning of the second half, but coach was telling me on the bench when he was subbing me to just let the game come to me and it’s going to come and that I was going to make plays, but just impact the game defensively and (with) rebounding,” Martin said.
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Kellen Dunham scored a game-high 23 points for the Bulldogs (22-10), who will meet top-seeded Virginia in Saturday’s second round.
Devaugntah Williams had 18 points for the Red Raiders (19-13), who were making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007.
Texas Tech built an early eight-point lead, but Butler rallied to take a 30-28 edge into the break. Both teams proved unable to gain traction, and the game was tied at 48 with nine minutes remaining.
Martin, who entered the tournament averaging 16.1 points, found himself open on the perimeter after taking an outlet pass from Andrew Chrabascz. Martin made that shot, then canned another 3-pointer after Roosevelt Jones zipped him a pass off a defensive rebound on the next possession. Martin’s shot swirled around the hoop and Butler had a 54-48 lead.
“Those 3s that Kelan Martin made in transition I thought were a dagger,” Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said.
Martin delivered a few more. After Smith called a timeout, Martin collected a steal and went in for a dunk. After the Red Raiders got back within 56-53, Martin got another steal and passed it to Dunham, whose 3-pointer made it 59-53. Texas Tech would never again make it a one-possession game.
“He’s wired to score and the biggest thing for him was he needed to let it happen,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “He was going to have some openings, and you know what? If they covered him well and he didn’t have openings, that was going to create some things for his teammates and he needed to be OK with that. He rolls out of bed ready to score the ball. We want him to continue to impact the game in other ways.”
Texas Tech largely unraveled at the offensive end. Smith bemoaned his team’s live-ball turnovers, and the Red Raiders had five giveaways in their final 15 possessions. Butler finished with 16 points off Texas Tech’s 14 turnovers.
“Probably the difference in the game, really,” Holtmann said. “I thought defensively we were good at times and not as good at other times. We did have some activity which created some turnovers and there were probably a couple unforced ones, too, that we capitalized on.”