Our young team is learning the Big 12 by experiencing the hard knocks of the top conference in the country. We've had two losses against the currently ranked #10 UT Longhorns and #14 West Virginia Mountaineers. The good thing is that we didn't get blown-out in either game. The bad thing is we looked sloppy most of the time when trying to set up our offense or play transition defense.
Two things that really frustrate players, coaches, and fans are turnovers and missed free throws. Seth talked about the turnover disaster in his postgame story after the WVU game...
Turnovers. Oh, Man. Texas Tech had 22 turnovers and it was really difficult to watch. There was a point during the game where Texas Tech was staying in the game, for all of the first half and a good part of the second half, but the full-court pressure was just unbearable for the offense and it couldn't have been more discouraging to watch this team throw so many possessions away. Just think, WVU had 63 shots and 8 turnovers, while Texas Tech had 46 shots and 22 turnovers. That essentially boils down to Texas Tech turning the ball over on 32% of their plays. That's ridiculous. The biggest offenders were Williams and Zach Smith, who each had 4 turnovers, but it was a cumulative effort.
Looks like Keenan Evans was also fed up with the turnovers after the WVU game...
Free throws... Turnovers... Free throws... Turnovers... Free throws... Turnovers... Free throws... We are just beating ourselves..
— Keenan Evans (@K3VANS12) January 6, 2015
Let's see what Tubby Smith had to say about it...
"Turnovers, I mean those are four and five point swings," said the Hall of Fame coach. "When you have these turnovers like this it just takes so much out of you, and there is nothing more disappointing to you than turnovers."
"We’ve had trouble with ball security, and then you run into a team that leads the nation in steals and this is what happens," he said.
"It’s like in football—you’ve got to run the route the right route. You’ve got to run to the right spot. And when one guy breaks down and runs near another guy, it’s just a lack of discipline on our part. We’ve got to get the whip out, I guess. We’ve got to do a better job of training them."
So basically you get the jest that Tubby Smith spit out in the last line above. He too is just as aggravated as anyone about the teams habit to turn the ball over. Plus, he plans on doing something about it. I would not like to be one of the players on the squad having to go through practices leading up to the Saturday game in Lawrence to take on #12 Kansas. If you do the math over the past 3 seasons the Red Raiders have lost in Lawrence by an average of approximately 32 points each game to the Jayhawks. Yikes! But, I would not worry ourselves just yet about the score. After the practices this week that Coach Smith is running, I think the group will be focusing on keeping the ball in our possession and not giving it to Kansas on foolish mistakes.
The other item that won't go away is our tendency to miss shots from the charity stripe. We seem to get it right for a game, then slip back to brick city. Our free throws versus UT were 13-26 (50%) and versus WVU were 22-37 (59.5%). I think this stat is more worrisome than our turnovers. The turnovers can be attributed to the strength of the teams we are playing and our youth in the league. Poor free throw shooting is not something that people can blame on anything besides lack of practice to improve your own shot. It doesn't matter if you are playing the Texas Longhorns or the Houston Rockets, a free throw shot is up to only the player shooting unguarded from the line. Make it or miss it, it's on your shoulders. Texas Tech needs to get better in this category and we might have a chance to knock off some of these top 25 teams we are playing.
Robert Turner was asked about it after the Texas game...
On what the key is to upping the free throw percentage...
"Repetition and keep shooting: In practice we work on them all the time. We just have to get in the gym on our own time and shoot some more."
The guys know the only way to change it is to put in work on their own time. Let's hope they are doing it.
Before we get to critiquing the team too harshly, I do want to point out that they are playing their butts off. The hustle is always there, and they don't back down from anything. The fight in our team is truly inspiring. Growing pains were always known as being a part of this blossoming squads season. They are getting better every game, and playing three nationally ranked top 15 opponents to kickoff conference play is a tough task. We still have 16 games to be played before the Big 12 tournament begins. That is plenty of time for us to grow by leaps and bounds. Wreck 'em Tech!