The Texas Tech men’s basketball team began the 2017-18 season playing host to the South Alabama Jaguars last Friday night. The game was part of the regional round of the 2017 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament.
Tech starters were Keenan Evans, Tommy Hamilton IV, Justin Gray, Niem Stevenson, and Zach Smith. The struggles were evident early for both teams because of efforts of the opposing defense.
The Tech defense proved to be a dominant force throughout the game as the smothering on ball pressure held South Alabama to just 30 percent shooting. The Jaguar shooting percentage from three suffered as they only managed 35 percent.
Early on, South Alabama played an off the ball, passing lane clogging defense. This led to Tech having 10 turnovers in the first half. The Red Raiders were also very hesitant on their outside shots in the first half. For the game, they shot 48 percent from the field on 27 of 56 and connected on 25 percent from three on 5 of 20 shooting.
Most of the first half lacked any offensive flow. Offensively, Tech was not taking advantage of defensive space given by the Jaguar defense. The Jaguars, on the other hand, received plenty of scoring opportunities from the free throw line because of the Red Raider on ball pressure. The defensive styles led to the Jaguars shooting 10 more free throws in the first half than Tech. The Jaguars, however, could not take advantage of the discrepancy as they only shot 59 percent from the line converting on just 10 of 17. Tech, on the other hand, shot 71 percent from the line on 5 of 7.
Texas Tech endured a four minute plus scoring drought in the first half but finished the half converting their last eight field goals. The struggling offense continued throughout the game as you would expect from an early season contest. The defensive effort also continued.
The Tech defense held Josh Ajayi, arguably South Alabama’s best player, to two points. Ajayi didn’t score his first points until a minute into the second half and he was only 1 of 5 from the field in 25 minutes.
The second half was much the same. Offensive struggles caused by defense and poor shooting. The Jaguars endured their own four minute scoring drought in the second half and scored sporadically throughout the game.
Texas Tech held an eight point lead at halftime that swelled to 20 with 8 minutes left. That’s when the players started coming off the bench.
It takes a little longer to develop consistency on offense. It’s even more difficult when it’s a game where both coaches play their bench. A total of 26 players saw minutes in the game for both teams. Both of these teams have experienced leadership on their team but they both will also depend on newcomers.
Tech was led in scoring by none other than Zhaire Smith with 14 points. However, three other players scored in double figures with Evans and Hamilton IV adding 12 each and Davide Moretti adding 10. All in all, 12 of the 15 Tech players with game time scored. That’s how you build a team.
Other stat leaders for Tech were Brandone Francis with six rebounds, Zach and Zhaire Smith with three assists a piece, Zach Smith with four steals, and Zhaire Smith with two blocks.
- David Moretti - seems a little slower than others but he can shoot! He figures to be a real weapon against any team that struggles on defense against the three bomb.
- Tommy Hamilton IV - big guy, big body, but also agile. Will be fun to watch him inside.
- Zhaire Smith - this guy can flat out play. Very active on both ends of the floor.
- Niam Stevenson - Stevenson only played 16 minutes and left the game with a lower back injury. We will keep an eye on that. He had four pts, three rebs, and two assists.
The Red Raiders will be back in action on Tuesday, November 14 against Maine. The game will tip off at 7 pm CT at the United Supermarkets Arena and is part of the 2017 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament regional round. Television coverage will be on Fox College Sports.