AUSTIN, Texas — If you want to know why Chris Beard recruited Mac McClung to Lubbock, look no further than Wednesday night.
The Georgetown transfer nailed a cold-blooded jumpshot with three seconds remaining, sealing a 79-77 Texas Tech win over No. 4 Texas.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Mac McClung,” Chris Beard. “Mac has the courage to take those shots and he’s a fun guy to coach.”
McClung led No. 15 Texas Tech in points with 22, and sank numerous tough shots to keep the Red Raiders in a game that Texas led for most of the night.
He made a 3-point bank shot, a wild reverse layup, and the most important one: an isolation, foot-on-the-line jumper to give the Red Raiders a two-point lead with three seconds left. After a Matt Coleman heave missed, Chris Beard had himself a Top 5, road win.
Before the late heroics, the Red Raiders looked like they were going to lose the game.
Texas got out to a 9-2 lead to begin the game, and while the Longhorns’ lead never got too big, Texas Tech was seemingly never able to tie it up. Every time the Red Raiders made it close, Texas had two buckets waiting in its back pocket.
That’s when Kyler Edwards stepped in.
The junior had been silent for most of the night, but his first basket was a 3-pointer with 7:35 left that cut the Longhorn lead to two. Minutes later he hit another 3, giving Tech its first lead since the score was 2-1.
“It’s what veteran players do,” Chris Beard said. “You can’t let the first half dictate how you’re going to play in the second… I thought it was a big night for him. Young Kyler, I don’t know if he could bounce back from struggling in the first half.”
After two clutch Longhorn threes put them back ahead, Edwards’ biggest contribution came with 46 seconds left and the Red Raiders trailing by two. He intercepted an inbounds pass and immediately dished to Terrence Shannon Jr., who tied the game up with a layup.
Coleman missed on the ensuing possession, setting up McClung’s huge shot.
Texas Tech survived a red hot shooting night from Texas to win the game. The Longhorns made 13 of 25 from behind the arc, including the clutch deep balls from Greg Brown and Courtney Ramey down the stretch. Texas features an excellent guard trio, and each of Coleman, Andrew Jones and Ramey made at least three 3-pointers.
Jones in particular was white-hot. The junior guard made four first half 3-pointers, leading Texas to a 48-38 halftime lead. However, he scored just two points in the second half.
The Longhorns complement their guards with a big, athletic frontcourt, and those forwards did damage on the glass to the tune of a 24-14 advantage in the first half.
In the second half, Texas Tech’s undersized squad fought. By the end of the night, the rebound margin was down to four.
“I thought our guys scrapped,” Beard said. “I really did.”
Kevin McCullar was the Red Raiders’ leader in that area with eight, and he flashed an improved offensive skillset in the win as well. He swished both of his 3-point attempts and went strong to the rim for tough finishes, including a key coast-to-coast bucket with 2:05 remaining.
The Red Raiders were able to stay in the game through a tumultuous first half by getting to the free throw line. They made 16-19 free throws in the first half, buoying an offense that struggled to score in other ways. McClung shot a team-high 10 of those.
There will always be questions about McClung’s game. His size limits what he can do on defense, and his shot can come and go. But McClung can score at any time, from anywhere. Texas Tech did not have a player like that last season, and Wednesday’s win proved why getting McClung was essential.