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story.lead_photo.caption Texas Tech's Zach Smith (11), Zhaire Smith (2) and Keenan Evans (12), celebrate in the closing seconds of the second half of a second-round game against Florida at the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Dallas, Saturday, March 17, 2018. Texas Tech won 69-66. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

TEXAS TECH 69, FLORIDA 66

DALLAS -- Keenan Evans keeps making big plays, extending Texas Tech's season and his time with second-year head Coach Chris Beard, a former coach for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans.

Evans has another game with the Red Raiders headed to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005.

Evans, who treats every game like senior night and doesn't want to be done, scored 22 points and hit a tiebreaking three-pointer with 2 ½ minutes left as third-seeded Texas Tech beat Florida 69-66.

"As clock runs down, you look at it like, 'I don't want my season to be over.' These guys are the same way," Evans said about the other Tech seniors.

While the next loss will end All-Big 12 guard Evans' career, high-flying freshman Zhaire Smith is just getting started.

Smith had 18 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists, and was on the receiving end of an alley-oop pass from Evans with 29 seconds left for a punctuating dunk to send the Red Raiders (26-9) to Boston for a matchup against Purdue or Butler next Friday night.

Chris Chiozza did go the length of the court for a Florida layup with 25 seconds left before Evans lost the ball when trying to fight through a double-team after the inbound pass.

The Gators gathered the ball after a wild scramble. Egor Koulechov and KeVaughn Allen both had three-point attempts in the final 10 seconds that came up short.

Florida (21-13) fell short of the Sweet 16 -- and the Elite Eight -- for the first time in their last six NCAA Tournament appearances. The last time they didn't even make it to the Sweet 16 was in 2010, when the SEC team lost a first-round game to BYU.

Jalen Hudson led third-year Coach Mike White's Gators with 23 points. Koulechov had 12 and Chiozza, their All-SEC point guard, had 11.

Texas Tech hasn't been to the Sweet 16 since Beard was an assistant coach for Bobby Knight. But this is only the third NCAA appearance since for the Red Raiders.

After his time coaching on Knight's staff, and then for Pat Knight, Beard left Tech for more than a decade. He coached UALR from April 2015 to March 2016, when he took the head coaching job at Nevada-Las Vegas. The following month, the Texas Tech job opened up when Tubby Smith left for Memphis and Beard took it.

Just weeks before returning to Lubbock, after briefly holding the UNLV job, Beard's UALR team upset Purdue in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament as part of 30 victories in his only season there.

Sports on 03/18/2018

Print Headline: Texas Tech slips by Florida

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