OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Martin Zeno matched his career high with 28 points as Texas Tech burnished its NCAA tournament resume with an 81-71 win over Colorado on Thursday in the first round of the Big 12 Conference tournament.
Texas Tech (21-11) has won 20 games for the fifth time in six seasons under coach Bob Knight, but a five-game losing streak in late January and early February means the Red Raiders now are on the NCAA tournament bubble.
The fifth-seeded Red Raiders will play another bubble team, fourth-seeded Kansas State, on Friday in the quarterfinals.
Colorado (7-20) closed its final season under coach Ricardo Patton, who said before the season that his 11th campaign with the Buffaloes would be his last. Colorado failed to win consecutive games this season, the first time the Buffs had done that since the 1971-72 season.
The Buffs also lost 20 games in a season for the first time since the 1988-89 campaign, when they lost 21.
After the game, Knight put his arm around Patton and spoke to him briefly.
Colorado trailed only 66-63 with five minutes left, but Zeno made sure the Buffs came no closer, scoring 13 of Texas Tech’s final 15 points, starting with a three-point play with 4:58 left. The Buffs managed only one basket in the final five minutes.
Dominique Coleman led Colorado with a career-high 25 points and added eight rebounds and four assists.
Patton was the last remaining coach from the Big 12’s original group of coaches in 1996-97, the league’s first season. Before the game, Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg presented Patton with a commemorative basketball to honor Patton’s time in the league.
That likely was the highlight of Patton’s afternoon. Colorado led only once, at 1-0, and played cohesively only in spurts, keeping the game just close enough to make it interesting but never catching the Red Raiders despite shooting 50.9 percent from the field and outrebounding Texas Tech 35-29.
Texas Tech posted a sizable edge in free throws, finishing 35-of-44 from the line while Colorado went 12-of-22.
Texas Tech led 8-7 five minutes into the game before reeling off eight straight points. Two came on technical free throws by Jarrius Jackson, after Colorado’s bench was penalized for having a substitute, Sean Kowal, enter the game with a jersey number not listed in the official scorebook.
The Buffs pulled within 33-29 in the final two minutes of the half, but Texas Tech answered with six straight points. The Red Raiders led 41-31 at halftime.
Texas Tech built its lead to 12 points with 16:37 left, but Colorado cut that margin to three points twice, at 58-55 with 9:46 left on Coleman’s driving layup, and at 66-63 on a 3-pointer by Richard Roby with 5:25 left.
Roby added 17 points for the Buffs. Jackson and Charlie Burgess each had 13 points for Texas Tech.