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Raiders look to continue hot start against Maine

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Red Raiders hope to make it two in a row against a struggling Maine team

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Championship-Texas vs Texas Tech Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Raiders will face the Maine Black Bears tonight at the United Supermarkets Arena. Beard’s team will face their second opponent in this regular season and also their second and final opponent in the Regional Round of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament. The Red Raiders defeated the South Alabama Jaguars 75-50 last Friday night on Zhaire Smith’s 14 points and 5 boards in his Red Raiders debut along with 12 points each from seniors Keenan Evans and Tommy Hamilton IV. The Maine Black Bears lost their regular season debut to the Boston College Golden Eagles (the Red Raider’s next opponent) by a score of 85-65. Now let’s get a closer look at the Bears.

The Black Bears play in the American East Conference and play teams such as Albany and Vermont in conference play. In their first game, the Black Bears got blown out by a decent Boston College team. There were some highlights from the game for Maine as Forward Ilija Stojilijkovic had 14 points on 5 of 5 shooting in 24 minutes of play. Stojilijkovic took half as many shots as the next two leading scorers for Maine. He picks his shots carefully and as the stats show, he hits on most of his shots. Stojilijkovic also led the team with 8 rebounds. From this one game, Stojilijkovic is by far their most efficient player. Look for the 6’7 forward to be guarded primarily by Justin Gray and in taller lineups, Zach Smith.

One player who didn’t have a great game this in the opener, probably due to the defense focusing on him is sophomore forward Andrew Fleming. As a freshman, Fleming was second on the Black Bears with 10.7 points per game and led the team with 6.5 rebounds per game. This is the one player who can drop 30 on you if you let him. He recorded 3 double-doubles in a row last year during conference play and is in my opinion, the best player on the team. Zach Smith will take most of the defensive reps on Fleming but as Maine tends to play with a smaller lineup, look for Tommy Hamilton IV and Norense Odiase to get some reps guarding him as well.

Also look out for Aaron Calixte to run the point guard and for Danny Evans to be a scorer coming off the bench as they had 12 and 11 points respectively in the opener against Boston College. Calixte also led the team with 32 minutes and was tied for the most assists on the team with 3 in the game last Friday. The Black Bears come out with a smaller lineup as Fleming and Stojilijovic at 6’7 are the two tallest forwards they played in their opener. Look for Tech to really take advantage down low on both sides of the ball.

Offensively last game, Tommy Hamilton IV’s scoring ability that was one thing that really stuck out to me. He can score from anywhere on the court and has a really smooth face-up post game. His ability to spread the court will be beneficial for the entire offense but in particular, look for Zach Smith to have a bounce-back game as much of the focus could be shifted Tommy’s way. Look for the 3 freshmen, Zhaire Smith, Jarrett Culver, and Davide Moretti off the bench to have another solid game that will again help take pressure off of the Red Raiders’ starters. Zhaire Smith had the best game of the three off the bench followed by Moretti with 11 points.

Moretti, often called “Moro” by coaches and teammates has the smoothest jump shot on the team and as I have said before will be a star before his time at Texas Tech is over. I expect Moro to have get more minutes as the season goes on as he continues to get more familiar with the system, the school, and the country in general.

Overall, the Red Raiders outmatch the Maine Black Bears in every facet of the game. Look for the big guys down low to especially have good games. I see Tommy Hamilton IV and Zach Smith both scoring in double figures. Also look for Keenan to extend his double-digit scoring streak to 22 on Tuesday night. I see the Red Raiders easily handling the Black Bears in Lubbock on Tuesday night. Prediction: Texas Tech 78 Maine 45.