In an absolutely amazing game, Texas Tech (16-10, 5-6) beat the hated Texas A&M Aggies (21-4, 9-2), 77-75, snapping a five game losing streak and sweeping the season series with the Aggies. This win without a doubt increases the Red Raiders chances to get back into the mix for the NCAA tournament.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I needed something to pick me up a little bit. After losing 5 straight I was getting a little depressed about the whole basketball season in general and starting to look forward to next year. That one win was huge for me as a Tech fan, I can't imagine what it has done for the team.
Let's get to the box score:
|J. Plefka, F||33||7||1||6||Played a huge role defensively and rebounded (yeah!)|
|D. Dora, F||14||4||1||2||Rebounded, but had too many turnovers.|
|J. Jackson, G||40||4||1||31||Player of the game, worked hard offensively all night.|
|M. Zeno, G||39||5||6||19||All-around good game, must concentrate as he had too many TO's.|
|C Burgess||35||2||2||5||Solid, yet unspectacular game, played solid D on Law.|
|J Mitchell||3||0||0||2||Minimal minutes.|
|D White||25||2||0||10||Stepped up with two 3-point baskets and excellent defense.|
|A. Voskuil, G||1||0||0||0||Minimal minutes (2 TO's in 1 minute).|
|D. Suljagic, F||10||1||0||2||Small contribution, good post defense.|
What Tech Did Right:
- Jackson Never Stopped: I've never seen Jackson work as hard as he did tonight. He was relentless and he was the inspiration behind this team tonight. He was a leader tonight and you could see the emotion on his face at the end of the 1st half when he hit that layup to bring Tech within 7, he was willing to lay it all on the line. As I said in Double T Nation's preview, the team and Jackson had absolutely nothing to lose. With approximately 6 seconds left in the game, Jackson took the ball after Law's made 3-point jumper and made an incredible jumper to win the game. It was vintage Jackson. Jackson played with something to prove tonight and he did.
- Movement on the Offense: I thought the offense (despite the fact there were 14 turnovers in the 1st half) played as efficiently as I have ever seen them play. I couldn't believe the constant movement and the unrelenting drives to the basket. I thought that was a huge part of why Tech was able to take this one. Fraschilla pointed out a number of times that Tech was scoring on this Aggie defense, in large part because of the offense's ability to drive to the basket and penetrate. It certainly helps to have a couple of guys who are capable of hitting some threes and stretch the defense, but Zeno on the baseline and Jackson inside (is that an oxymoron?) made this offense click.
- The Small Lineup: For a large part of of the second half Coach Knight went with a lineup of Burgess, Jackson, Zeno, White and Plefka. I remind you that White is really a 6-6 shooting guard who drew the assignment of guarding Kavaliauskas or Jones (both are 6-10 and 6-9 respectively). Knight recognized that so long as A&M was going to stay in the high-low offense (one post player is at the top of the key and the other is on the block and they essentially rotate between those positions) that there was no need to have a Tech big man (Dora, Suljagic or Mitchell) guarding the high post player. Instead, Knight inserted White in the starting lineup of the 2nd half and despite the disparity in height, A&M was never able to take advantage. There did seem to be a point in the 2nd half where A&M was grabbing every long rebound, but the fact that the Aggies were settling for long-range shots when they had a 6-6 shooting guard covering one of the post players was a victory. Plefka did all of the heavy lifting as he was assigned the duty of guarding the low post player and although Kavaliauskas and Jones had 18 a piece, it just simply wasn't enough. An incredible job by Knight taking advantage of matchups.
- Decensae White and Martin Zeno Played Huge: You could have given me a couple of chances to ask me who would be the 3rd man to step up tonight, but when White hit those two 3-point shots in the 2nd half, I couldn't help but think that White's actually improved his game throughout the year. White went from a "garbage" player, a kid who scored around the basket off of offensive rebounds, to a player who showed some offensive prowess (that's right, I used the word prowess). White's 2nd 3-point shot pushed the Red Raiders ahead 57-55 and gave Tech crazy momentum. Zeno was again huge, his style of play is so difficult to guard and I think even after almost 3 years of playing in the Big 12, most players guarding Zeno dont' think that he's left-handed. To go along with his 19 points, Zeno had 5 rebounds and 6 assists.
What Tech Did Wrong: Tonight, we're not going to focus on too many negatives, but I do have a couple.
- There's Still No Consistency: I've complained all year that Tech doesn't have that consistent third scorer, but I think it's too late in the season to expect a consistent third person. Tech will have to rely on Knight's ability to find the right man each and every night for Tech to continue to make a charge into the post season.
- Interior Defense: Tech really struggles with their interior defense and it showed tonight. I don't think it's for lack of trying, but Plefka, Dora and the rest of the crew just don't have the same type of ability that some of the other post players in the conference. I would not have guessed that Tech would be capable of winning this game if Jones and Kavaliauskas had each scored 18 and the Aggies did a decent job of force feeding the ball down low at the beginning of each half. If the improvement can't come from Plefka and Dora then it needs to come from the defenders who help, the wing players who can assist and get back to their man. A minor point, but it's certainly something to consider as Tech moves forward.
I hate to pat myself on the back, but 2 of my 3 keys to the game came to fruition, and I might take credit for the third. Let's review:
- There's Nothing to Lose: I would say that Tech played like a team with nothing to lose and they certainly played like a team that doesn't have any quit.
- Stop Josh Carter: Um, check, 5 points.
- Take Advantage of A&M's Frontcourt: This is the questionable key. Plefka wasn't huge tonight, but Decensae White played a huge part and he essentially played a frontcourt position. I don't care, I'm taking credit for this one.