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Recap: Texas Tech falls to Texas A&M Commerce 72-69 in OT

Tech loses a close one to Texas A&M Commerce, and despite us losing to a D-II school, this isn't as bad as it seems. I'll explain why.

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Spo

Tech had a hard fought battle against Texas A&M Commerce yesterday and fell flat to the Lions in overtime. The Red Raiders gave it all that had but couldn't get their shots to fall in late in the contest. Here was the starting line-up:

The game started off with a 10-3 run by the Lions just 5 minutes into the game. Tech was taking terrible shots and couldn't follow through on shots. Not only that, but the bigs down low for the Lions were successful early on. Then the Red Raiders started to make better decisions on the offense in and improved their defensive pressure, catching back up and tying the contest at halftime. Then when the 2nd half opened, the Lions started to go on a run again. They out-rebounded the Red Raiders and pushed to ball quickly down the floor for easy scores. Commerce took a 10 point lead with just under 8 minutes left when Tubby put in his bench players to try and give Tech an athletic spark and to see how the freshmen would respond (Gray, Evans, Smith, Foster and Williams). They had great offensive movement and defensive pressure from then on out. Gray was taking over on all aspects of the game, getting points, great defense and getting rebounds. Smith had some key shots late in the game and made some key rebound. Evans did good distributing the ball and made some baskets late. Those three, in my opinion, were the key to the comeback. Down 7 with a 1:30, Tech would march back and tie the game to send it into overtime. In OT, the Lions made some tough baskets and Tech's shots just couldn't fall in as they feel to Commerce after Evans missed a desperation 3-pointer by foot or so. This is what Tubby had to say after the game per

"This is just what we needed tonight," said Red Raider head coach Tubby Smith. "We got it in to overtime, we came from behind, we battled the boards with a good rebounding team -- they were beating us on the boards at half time, we came back and evened it up. We made some free throws at some clutch times, especially by Zach (Smith) and Keenan (Evans) and Justin (Gray), so I was impressed with our freshmen. It gave me a lot more confidence in our freshmen. We had 44 points from the bench tonight, and that's what's going to be critical for us."

Even though this looks like a bad loss, it's not really as bad as it seems. First off, even though Texas A&M Commerce is a D-II school, they are pretty damn good one. They faced A&M just a few days before facing our Red Raiders and almost beat them, falling short late in the game and losing by 9. Their bigs were pretty good and looked like they could play D-I ball, one of which my friend and I believe had a chance of making it to the NBA (via Free Agency). Also, Tubby plugged in his bench late in the game. The starters weren't on the floor for the final 10 minutes and overtime. That was a group of guys who had never played a Big XII game coming back against Texas A&M late in the contest. We know what Turner, Gotcher and Onwuasor can bring to this team, but we haven't seem what the newcomers could do yet. Finally, we were in a position where we were down late and were able to come back and send it into overtime. Even though we didn't win, Tech had troubles closing out games at times last year (WVU, Kansas and @ Texas). Yes we loss to Commerce, and yes we probably won't be as good as some may have thought, but from I've seen thus far, we have the right guys in place to be a successful team down the road.

Here are some of my thoughts from the game:

  • Offensive Execution Early On - The offense was not running the offense well early on, and Tubby showed frustration early in the game. Texas Tech was not taking good shot attempts and weren't running plays correctly, and it was showing. They weren't going up when they needed to, taking 3-pointers when they didn't have to, and didn't create effective ball movement. Tech failed to score until about 5 mins into the game. It got a little better later in the game, but early on it was bad
  • Improved Free Throw Percentage - After a terrible display from the free throw line last game, Tech improved this week. They shot 83% going into halftime and finished shooting 65%. Yes, that's still not a great percentage, but it's better than it was on Monday. Also, Zach Smith and Justin Gray knocked down several free throws late in the game that sent it into overtime. Still room for improvement, but it was better.
  • Justin Gray is a Superstar in the Making - I know y'all probably heard me rave about Gray since the day he signed with Tech, but watch him play live and you'll understand why. Gray started to take over late in the game and was probably the main reason why Tech went into OT. He was 4-10 on the day, but the shots he missed were ones that rimmed out or were barley off the mark. Not bad shot attempts. He lead the way with 14 points, and tied the team lead in rebounds, steals and block for the game. He also had a play were he dunked on three defenders off a miss shot. No joke. The hype it real.
  • Missed Shots Around the Rim - Tech had troubles putting the ball in the rim near the basket. Keenan Evans missed a wide open lay-up. Foster missed a couple underneath the rim. Gray missed a lay-up. Williams missed a lay-up. Too many easy points were accounted for due to poor execution around the rim. This shouldn't be a big problem and I'm sure it'll be easy to correct, but you're not going to win games if you can't make those shots. Plain and simple.
  • Lots of Defensive Pressure - Tech pressured the ball in many situations and caused turnovers that lead to scoring opportunities and easy buckets. Tech's guards have shown thus far to have quick hands that can jar out the ball and create scoring opportunities. They did a good job pressing the opposition late and was one reason why they got back in the game. Tech will have a chance to win some more games this year if they can create easy baskets from turnovers
  • Starters Ineffective for Most of the Game - None of the starters were exactly amazing tonight, as Gotcher only had a point, Turner was 3-11 with 5 TOs and Lambert was 1-3. I think Onwuasor had a pretty good game, and Odiase wasn't terrible, but wasn't exactly outstanding either. Luckily for Tech, the bench had 44 points and was effective. I think that Turner and Gotcher just had off night, and we shouldn't be worried about how they're playing.