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Those last few seconds are a killer. Texas Tech just can’t close a game and you can see the frustration on HC Tubby Smith’s face. Of course none of us are in the huddle, but it looks as if this team is pretty just cannot figure out how to play last few minutes, how to get organized to run a decent play and get a decent shot. Maybe I’m reading too much into the situation, but Smith is wanting something done, but what’s happening on the court isn’t it. It’s getting to the point where this team is getting snake-bit in the last few minutes, almost as if they immediately look to the sideline and are unsure. This is where the point guard needs to step up and bark directions, but that level of communication just isn’t there just yet. I don’t blame Turner for this as he just hasn’t had all that long to sync with his head coach and Smith hasn’t had that long to teach. This is the part of the process that stinks to be patient.
Star of the Game | G Robert Turner: That is the Turner that I remembered from the first of the year. I was starting to wonder if Turner was able to play against better competition, that he was a non-conference wonder. At the very least, he showed us that he’s capable of terrific point guard play in conference as he scored 19 points on 6 of 9 from the floor, including 3 of 5 from the three-point line, and filled up the box score with 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 blocks and 3 steals.
1. Be Ready for More Zone: Texas employed a zone defense against Texas Tech for the better part of the first half and it took a half for Texas Tech to figure it out. The first half was quite rough, shooting only 40% from the floor, including 20% from the three-point line. Texas Tech would have fallen pretty far behind had it not been for the free throws they shot in the first half, but only made 11 of 18, which just isn't acceptable. In any event, Texas Tech struggled offensively, but in the second half, they started to make their shots, and the offense clicked much better, forcing Texas to play man defense in the later part of the game. Texas Tech had a tough time adjusting, which is part of the reason the Longhorns won, but you can expect more zone defense from Big 12 teams for the rest of the year. There is no doubt that teams are going to do their best to force Texas Tech to beat them from the outside. I'd also mention that Texas Tech did a really nice job of finding Crockett at the free throw line to help create and put some pressure on the Texas defense. Crockett only ended up 6 of 15 from the floor and if he can make one or two more shots, Texas Tech wins this game.
2. Small Ball Has Arrived: I didn't get to see the first bit of this game, but I'm guessing that Texas Tech finally started the three-guard lineup with Turner, Toddrick Gotcher and Dusty Hannahs in the backcourt and Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert in the frontcourt. Thsi is really all that Smith wants to play right now. It think that it's clear that this is who he trusts, with Randy Onwuasor, Dejan Kravic and Aaron Ross filling in some blanks. Small ball is here, despite Smith's initial hesitancies to roll out a starting lineup that he just wasn't sure if he wanted to do, but it's clear that the starting five listed above give this team the best opportunity to wins some games. It stinks to talk about how this team is getting close, but they are getting close.
3. Half a Minute: I really wish I knew what the problem was for this team in terms of late-game management. As mentioned above, it's clear that Smith wants to run a certain play and it's just not getting run. I was sure that the last few seconds played out, the last true possession with 14 seconds left, that Texas Tech was going to get organized and just run out the play. That just didn't happen. It's frustrating to watch the frustration with Smith. Texas Tech only had 3 turnovers in the first half and 9 in the second half. I don't know if this was a result of the team just dropping off a bit in terms of being tired or being able to focus, and maybe that's why Smith is calling the timeouts. I should also mention that this is not a criticism of Smith calling the timeouts, I think that's fairly common. But Crockett's last shot should not have been the intended shot. That was not pretty. The same thing for Tolbert's last shot. That was not a quality and open look with 18 seconds remaining. That's a lot of time to find a good shot and this team just got nervous or something, but what happened in the last half minute is not what should be happening in the last few minutes of the game.
Charts: Thanks to the good folks at StatSheet.