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Instant Reaction: Defense helps No. 24 Red Raiders win Throwback game against Rice

Keenan scores 13 and Zhaire Smith adds 12 in an ugly win against RIce

NCAA Basketball: Kennesaw State at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 24 Texas Tech Red Raiders defeated the Rice Owls by a score of 73-53. The main takeaway I had from this game is that the Red Raiders did well while facing adversity, having trailed early and often in this game trailing by as much as 8 in the first half. Points were at a premium in the first half as the Red Raiders were able to climb back into this game and lead 29-25 at the halftime break. Tonight was Throwback Night at Texas Tech, so many legends were in the building including Marsha Sharp, James Dickey, Tony Battie, and Sheryl Swoopes. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience to see a ton of the Texas Tech Basketball legends in the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum one more time. Now let’s get to the actual game.

What Impressed:

Davide Moretti really impressed me in the first half tonight. He had 8 points in the game total and most of those came in the first half when the Red Raiders needed him the most. He is one of the players on my shortlist for player of the game. He played well on both sides of the ball and played the majority of the game. This was a game where the Red Raiders played small ball with Justin Gray or Zach Smith playing the center position most of the second half and our bigger guys on the bench. This was due to Rice’s smaller lineup and the fact that they shot 40% from three and were hot early on. Team defense was again excellent in this game. This game would have been a bigger blowout if Connor Cashaw among others would not have hit some ridiculously contested shots late in the shot clock.

What Disappointed:

Free throws. Free throws. Free throws. The Red Raiders went 7-21 from the free-throw line. For those non-math wizards like myself, that’s 33%. That is awful, even for a high school team. The Red Raiders seemed unable to make two free-throws in a row and that was something that kept Rice in this game until late in the second half. The Red Raiders’ zone offense was also stagnant at times in the first half. Their offense was able to get better looks at the basket. Shots were not falling all night for the Red Raiders and I am proud of how they handled the adversity.

Player of the Game:

Zhaire Smith is my player of the game. He had 12 points, 3 assists, and shot 6-8 from the field. What impressed me more than any of that is the fact that Smith played all 5 positions at one moment or other in the game. He is one of the best freshmen in the country and I am excited to see what he will bring to the table in Big 12 play.

Final Thoughts:

The Red Raiders played through so much adversity tonight. Shots wouldn’t go down for them from start to finish as the Red Raiders shot 25% from 3-point land and 33% from the free-throw line. The defensive pressure that the Red Raiders put on the Owls late in the game and eventually sealed the deal was impressive. The Red Raiders next play the Florida Atlantic Owls at the United Supermarkets Arena on Tuesday night.