Texas Tech lost to the Missouri Tigers, 71-58, in what I thought was Tech's worst loss of the year. I had a bad feeling about this game (I know, it's easy to say that after the fact), but thought it was a game that was certainly winable. Part of the reason why Tech didn't play was the loss of starter, Charlie Burgess, and occasional starter, John Plefka. The AP article by R.B. Fallstrom he has some notes as to why Burgess and Plefka didn't play today.
Plefka was sidelined by a leg injury Knight said was sustained against Texas A&M on Wednesday and Burgess, who averages 9.9 points, sprained an ankle when he slipped on a basketball during the team's shootaround earlier in the day.
Knight said Plefka will undergo an MRI exam for an injury he described as a "tear" and that Burgess could "barely walk" at game time. To Knight, the problem against Missouri was manpower rather than overconfidence from the recent successes.
"Son, we just got beat," Knight said to a Missouri student reporter. "We had two guys that didn't play that have been instrumental in our team all year. There wasn't any letdown."
I still have a hard time in finding any solace in this information, as this was just a depressing and madening loss for Tech. Here are the numbers.
|Zeno, M||36||1||3||14||Wasn't effective today had trouble getting open looks.|
|Jackson, J||40||4||5||12||As teams focus on him, production decreases.|
|White, D||18||0||1||9||Hit open 3's, but still struggled against MU defense.|
|Valentine, B||23||2||1||5||Right now, is overmatched against Big 12 competition.|
|Voskuil, A||23||3||3||5||Made poor decisions on shot selection, must work harder to get open.|
|Ogden, T||9||0||1||5||Surprised to play, is overmatched too.|
|Dora, D||10||1||0||2||Difficult to figure out why Dora received limited minutes.|
|Mitchell, J||7||0||3||2||Wilkerson? Lacks athleticism to play in the post offensively and defensively.|
|Prince, M||12||2||2||2||Should contribute more offensively, must step up his play without Plefka.|
|Suljagic, D||19||1||4||2||Only decent post defender without Plefka, he can't afford foul trouble.|
|White, L||3||1||0||0||Minimal minutes.|
What Tech Did Right:
- Tech Competed: Although there's very little to like about this game, at the very least, the players never quite, Saturday just wasn't their day. Much of the credit goes to Missouri, they made a point to get Tech out of any sort of offensive rhythm and without Burgess at the point, Tech was going to be hard pressed to make too much happen on the offensive end.
- Decensae White Showed Us Something Again: It's been a while since Decensae has received any sort of playing time, but he did on Saturday and he showed us all that he's been working on a long range jumpshot to go a long with his tenacious inside play. Personally, I don't want Decensae to fall in love with the outside jumper as he is invaluable scrapping for loose balls and rebounds.
- Valentine Stepped Up: My comment above states that Valentine is, unfortunately for Tech, not a threat offensively in the Big 12, but you could really see the effort with Valentine. It's clear that he's over-matched, but he's not letting that stop him.
What Tech Did Wrong: This is really difficult for me. Tech did a ton wrong, but much of what was wrong was not having Burgess or Plefka. Of course we've survived for quite a while without Plefka throughout the season, but the thought of not having a servicable big man is worrisome, but not having a competent point guard is devastating.
- Who Plays The Point: Although Knight trusted Valentine with the job of playing point guard today, it was obvious that he's not a long-term answer. Voskuil just isn't suited to play the point either, so now Tech is at a cross-roads. If Burgess is out for an extended period of time, it will be tempting to turn the reins over to Jackson and Voskuil and have them split the time at point, but it's painfully obvious that this is not a solution. Jackson has gotten used to playing without the ball and Voskuil lacks the necessary quickness at the point guard position. It would be a bold move, but Knight toyed with making Decensae White a point forward for parts of the pre-conference games. Doing this would probably result in a couple of rough patches over the next two or three games, but White's an athletic player who I think can adapt quickly. I see thoughts of Kasib Powell running through Knight's head with White. We'll see.
- Where Is The Frontcourt: I tend to blame the players when they are inconsistent, but Knight has to take a little credit here too. I realize that Knight's got a difficult decision on his hands as he tries to figure out who to play. On one hand he's got Dora who can be a threat offensive, can be a real liability defensively. Suljagic is pretty good defensively, but his post game is very limited (very limited). Despite all of that, Knight has to make a decision and stick with it. White, Prince, Dora and Suljagic have to get regular minutes, they've got to work in this rotation, otherwise there will be a complete lack of offensive continuity, much like today.
- Please, For the Love of God, Rebound: I know I've harped on this all year, but someone has to step up and rebound the basketball. I know that Tech lacks the athletic frontcourt that most other Big 12 teams are blessed with, but rebounding the basketball shouldn't be such a huge issue. Jay Jackson led the team in rebounding with 5 and Suljagic had 4.
- Turnovers: I discussed this against the Aggies, but Tech has got to do a better job of being careful with each possession. Granted, Tech played without Burgess, but that should have made each of them more aware that they would each have to be more careful with the ball. Keep those turnovers to a minimum.
- Pressure Man Defense Shouldn't Be That Big Of A Deal: Tech has seen pressure defense before, but Tech simply got in a hurry and let Missouri dictate the pace of the game. Slow down. Relax. See the court. Play the game.
- No Perimeter Defense: Missouri was able to get off too many clean looks against Tech. Although 8-21 isn't necessarily an impressive percentage, it's certainly enough to push Tech out of a game. The Red Raiders have to do a better job of contesting perimeter shots, especially against teams that can hit their open shots.
Tech has 10 games left and I figure we need to win at least 5 of those games to make the tournament. We've got our signature wins (Kansas and Texas A&M) and we could use at least one or two more. If Burgess and Plefka are out for extended periods of time then this could really spell trouble for Tech. It's going to be a tight race the rest of the way and it should be very interesting. Tech has got to get some production out of Jackson and Zeno. I don't know how that's going to happen, but the Red Raiders have to get them going early and it wouldn't hurt to run a little more since there's a greater than zero chance that your half-court offensive sets won't be running as smoothly as before.