By DAVE SKRETTA , AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Texas Tech made every possession a grind, fought for every loose ball, dominated in the paint and imposed its will on Nebraska in a throwback to the old days of the rough-and-tumble Big 12.
All that fight produced a title in the Hall of Fame Classic.
Jarrett Culver finished with 26 points, Matt Mooney scored 15 and the Red Raiders overcame a slow start by ramping up the defensive intensity Tuesday night, pulling away from the Huskers in the second half in a 70-52 victory in the first meeting of the former league rivals since the 2011 season.
“That was an excellent defensive effort on their part,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “It seemed like every time we had a chance to make something happen, they came up with the ball.”
The Red Raiders (5-0) trailed 15-6 in the opening minutes before going on a 12-0 run to wipe out their biggest deficit. The game remained close until midway through the second half, when Culver and Mooney began to get loose on offense and slowly padded Texas Tech’s cushion.
The crushing blow came with 8 minutes left, when Culver hit 3-pointer from the corner. Miles was given a technical foul at the other end when he thought a traveling call should’ve been made, and Davide Moretti made both free throws to extend the Red Raiders’ lead to 57-42.
They leaned on their stingy defense the rest of the way.
“Our team just continues to be a work in progress. Kind of a coaching cliche but so true,” Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said. “We challenged ourselves in a one-day prep to play what I think is an NCAA Tournament team in Nebraska, and we learned a lot about ourselves.”
They also left an impression on one of their biggest fans.
After playing a high-profile Monday night game in Los Angeles, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was courtside for the championship game at the Sprint Center. The Texas Tech alum stood and cheered on just about every made basket, and seemed to lament every miss as much as anyone else.
“I thought Pat might come to the game,” Beard said. “He’s just a great ambassador for Texas Tech. We tell our guys not to forget where you come from and he’s the perfect example.”
Isaac Copeland Jr. scored 20 points and James Palmer Jr. had 13 for the Huskers (4-1), who were trying to win their first in-season tournament title since the 2000 San Juan Shootout.
Copeland joined Culver and Mooney on the all-tournament team along with Southern California’s Bennie Boatwright and Missouri State’s Keandre Cook, who squared off in the third-place game.
Culver was voted the tournament’s most outstanding player.
“Jarrett is a special player,” Mooney said. “He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve seen. He’s really humble, and when he gets it going like that you’re just really happy for him. It was a great game by him. He pushed us to the ‘W.'”
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 99, MISSOURI STATE 80
Boatwright scored 22 points, Jonah Mathews added 21 and USC connected on 17 3-pointers — its most in 17 years — to romp past Missouri State in the tournament’s third-place game.
Kevin Porter Jr. added 14 points, Derryck Thornton had 12 and Nick Rakocevic scored 10 for the Trojans (3-2), who bounced back easily from a turnover-laden semifinal loss to the Red Raiders.
USC used first-half runs of 13-0 and 16-0 to take control, pushed the lead to 44-27 by halftime and coasted down the stretch with the only question whether the Trojans would top 100 points.
“Our players made the choice to play together, share the ball, make the extra pass,” Trojans coach Andy Enfield said. “When you make the extra pass, usually you get an open shot.”
Ryan Kreklow hit six 3-pointers and had 23 points to lead the Bears (3-2). Cook added 21 points and Kansas City native Jarred Dixon hit five 3s and finished with 17.
“They were really good, especially from 3, and we didn’t defend them well,” Missouri State coach Dana Ford said. “You have to give them credit. I thought they played a fantastic offensive game.”
Texas Tech heads back to Lubbock to face Northern Colorado on Saturday, while Nebraska welcomes a visit from Western Illinois on Saturday. USC returns to the Galen Center to play Cal State Bakersfield on Sunday and Missouri State heads to Murray State on Saturday night.