WACO, Texas (AP) — Terry Maston is emerging as a go-to guy for the surging Baylor Bears. No. 7 Texas Tech hopes it didn’t just lose top scorer Keenan Evans for any length of time.
Maston scored 24 points to lead the Bears to a 59-57 victory over the Red Raiders, whose seven-game winning streak ended Saturday night after the Big 12 leaders lost Evans to what coach Chris Beard said was a toe injury in the first half. The school initially reported it as a foot injury.
Maston, who finished two points shy of his career high set in the previous game against Texas, hit the go-ahead shot with 1:26 remaining as the Bears (17-10, 7-7 Big 12) continued their push for the NCAA Tournament with a fifth straight win following a 2-7 start in the rugged conference.
Baylor moved into sole possession of fifth place, and Texas Tech (22-5, 10-4) dropped into a tie for first with No. 13 Kansas with four games remaining. The Jayhawks have won 13 straight Big 12 regular-season titles.
“I thought a gritty effort for our guys, especially not having one of best players in the second half to come out there and basically turn it into another Big 12 one-possession game,” Beard said. “Had a chance to win it with the ball in our hands without Keenan.”
Freshman Zhaire Smith led the Red Raiders with 15 points, but had just two points and attempted just two shots after halftime. Justin Gray had 13 points and eight rebounds before fouling out in the final minute.
Evans, the No. 2 scorer in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma freshman sensation Trae Young, limped off with 1:14 left in the first half and didn’t return. He jogged to and from the locker room at halftime and tested the injured foot on the court before the second half started.
But Evans bent over at the waist at midcourt with a Texas Tech staff member next to him while his teammates warmed up, looking unfit to play.
Maston went scoreless in the first meeting with Texas Tech, a 77-53 road loss in the senior’s first game back after missing six with a broken shooting hand. In the rematch, he had at least 10 field goals for the second straight game and scored at least 23 for the third time in five games.
“The thing I talked to him before yesterday was you’ve had big games before, but coming back and now having back-to-back and being consistent with it, that’s the next level,” coach Scott Drew said. “We’re running out of time big fella, so we need that consistency.”
Mark Vital had eight points, eight bounds and two blocks — both in the final minute with Baylor protecting a one-point lead. Manu Lecomte had 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting.
Leading by a point with two timeouts in the final 30 seconds, King McClure threw a bad pass for a turnover, but Texas Tech freshman Jarrett Culver missed a long 3. After Jo Lual-Acuil made one of two free throws, a desperation heave by Brandone Francis at the buzzer was short.
The Bears shot 25 percent in the second half and a season-low 33 percent for the game but held the Red Raiders to 35 percent after halftime. Texas Tech didn’t score again after Francis hit a 3 for a 57-53 lead with 3 minutes remaining.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders almost survived without Evans by turning to their defense, one of the best in the country in terms of field goal percentage. But when they needed their go-to guy in the final minutes, they didn’t have him. The offense showed it. “I have a lot of confidence in a lot of guys,” Beard said.
Baylor: It was just the second win in 10 games against ranked teams for the Bears. They likely will need another win or two to make sure they extend a school record with a fifth straight trip to the NCAAs. But this win appears to be a big step. “I think that’s the great thing about the Big 12. I think there’s nine schools that are making cases for the NCAA Tournament, probably,” Drew said.
Beard didn’t have much more detail on Evans’ injury. It wasn’t clear when it happened. He finished with four points. “You’re always concerned,” Beard said. “I hate that. Your always want the best players on the floor. We’ll hope for the best.”
Texas Tech: At Oklahoma State on Wednesday.
Baylor: Faces No. 20 West Virginia at home Tuesday.
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