LUBBOCK, Texas -- Pat Knight finally got Texas Tech to buckle down on defense, just in time to avoid a costly loss.
Mike Singletary made two free throws with 18.4 seconds left and finished with 27 points, helping the Red Raiders (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) rally for a 76-75 victory over McNeese State on Friday.
"These last four games we're giving up 40-45 points in the first half," Knight said. "At least this game, I give them credit, we only gave up 31 in the second half. We won because we played defense in the second half."
The Red Raiders (11-2) trailed by nine in the second half but rallied to take a 74-73 lead on Nick Okorie's three-point play.
P.J. Alawoya got the lead back for McNeese State but couldn't convert his opportunity for a three-point play. Singletary took advantage of the opening, making both of his foul shots to make it 76-75.
McNeese State had two opportunities to get the win in the final seconds but failed to get a shot off each time. Diego Kapelan scored 20 points for the Cowboys (5-8).
"If you look back at our records, we played pretty good at places with these environments," McNeese State coach Dave Simmons said. "But I just think it was a challenge and a great opportunity for our basketball team and I told them when we have these opportunities that's when greatness happens. And we just come up short tonight."
Elbryan Neal made a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left in the first half to give the Cowboys a 44-39 lead.
The Red Raiders were coming off 90-75 loss at New Mexico.
"We just have to get off to a better start, more energy," Knight said. "It's pretty much simple stuff. Our body language, kids' personalities, having an urgency. You gotta have an urgency every time."
Singletary, who also had four steals, thought Texas Tech played hard in the first half.
"But they got too many easy buckets," he said. "They would air ball a 3, get a rebound and put it back in. Those kind of plays really hurt us in the first half."
Knight said he thought his team would've lost a similar game last year.
"That's the difference," he said. "This team hung on, played it to the end and got a hard, fought win. That's what I look at. Trying to get better each year."