LUBBOCK, Texas – Devaugntah Williams made the most of his first start this season.
He made the game-winning layup with one second remaining in Texas Tech's 46-44 home win against Auburn on Wednesday night in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Williams scored all four of his points in the final 41 seconds of the game.
"Coach told me to drive it, fake and get them in the air," Williams said. "But I saw it was a big man guarding me, so I just figured I could just drive as fast as I can and spin to the rim."
Williams came off the bench during the Red Raiders' first five games but replaced Justin Gray, who suffered a right hip injury in Sunday's game against Air Force, in the starting lineup.
Auburn (3-3) couldn't get a shot off before time expired following Williams' shot. Tigers coach Bruce Pearl then walked onto the court, away from the handshake line, but declined to comment on why he did so.
"I don't remember," Pearl said. "There are certain things I can comment on and certain things I cannot comment on. It's better if I try to forget."
Williams sparked the Red Raiders' rally, making consecutive free throws to even the score at 44 with :41 remaining — his only free throw attempts.
On the Tigers' ensuing possession, Toddrick Gotcher blocked a K.T. Harrell layup with 15 seconds remaining, and Williams gathered in the loose ball. Red Raiders coach Tubby Smith called timeout and told Williams to attack the basket.
"He had just made two free throws," Smith said. "I figured he was hot."
Williams' layup was just the third for the Red Raiders (5-1) over the final 11:52.
Texas Tech needed an improved second-half defense to beat Auburn, which scored just 20 points in the second half on 8 of 23 shooting (34.8 percent). The Red Raiders forced three turnovers and Auburn missed three shots over the first 3:22 after halftime.
"I thought our guys are committed to playing defense," Smith said. "They know that's going to be our strength. We're certainly not an offensive juggernaut. One of our goals was to hold a team to under 40 percent (shooting) and they did."
A Zach Smith layup gave the Red Raiders a 25-24 lead with 16:38 remaining in the second half, and Gray extended their lead with a steal and a dunk 13 seconds later. The Tigers called timeout, but Robert Turner added a jumper for a 29-24 lead with 33 seconds later.
The Tigers began chipping away, evening the score at 37 with 4:53 remaining and took a 40-38 lead with 3:43 left on a 3-pointer by Jordon Granger. Harrell, who scored a game-high 17 points, gave the Tigers a 42-40 lead. Tahj Shamsid-Deen gave the Tigers a 44-42 lead.
Williams, however, scored four consecutive points to end the game. Norense Odiase scored 15 points to lead Texas Tech, while Gotcher added 12 points.
Auburn: Cinmeon Bowers has been a strong point this season for the Tigers but was limited against Texas Tech due to foul trouble and what Pearl described as a loss of focus. The junior entered Wednesday leading the SEC and ranked second nationally with an average of 13 rebounds per game. He had no points and one rebound after accumulating two first-half fouls in five minutes and finished with four points and eight rebounds.
Texas Tech: Smith earned his 529th career win Sunday to take sole possession of 66th place among Division I coaches. He trails former Purdue coach Gene Keady, who won 531 career games, for 65th place. Smith ranks No. 18 among active coaches in wins with 530.
Red Raiders freshman left Sunday's game against Air Force early due to an injured right hip that required X-rays. He was limited in practice since then, which forced Smith to start Williams. However, Gray played 16 minutes and produced two points and three rebounds.
Auburn returns home to play Coastal Carolina on Friday.
Texas Tech plays host to Fresno State on Wednesday.