It had been five years since the Texas Tech Red Raiders had won a game in Kansas City and even longer since they have made it to the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. Keenan Evans and the rest of the seniors made sure they would not go an entire career without a Big 12 Tournament victory.
Perimeter Defense - Tech has to improve in this area. Most of the losses Tech has suffered has been because of the opposing team catching fire and that almost happened again. Jacob Young had the game of his life partially because he was left wide open on threes. After he made his first couple in a row, you would think that someone would decide to put a body on him but it wasn’t until he made six in a row until he began to be chased off the three point line. Luckily for Tech, only one three-pointer was made by anyone else and the one-man output by Young in the second half wasn’t enough
Interior Defense - This is where we missed Zach Smith the most. Now that he is back, we are already seeing his presence felt. Tommy Hamilton played one of the best defensive games we’ve seen him play as he, Zach Smith, and Norense Odiase held down the post. Tech big men held Texas’ leading scorer Dylan Osetkowski to a season low four points. Texas then tried to throw the ball into freshman Jericho Sims in the second half but that also showed to be futile as he only amassed two points. Star big man Mohamed Bamba had a small sample of offensive success however most of that was being on the receiving end of quality guard play.
The Block - I tried to go as long as I could before mentioning it, but Zhaire Smith’s block on Kerwin Roach was huge and deflating for the Longhorn side. That play seemed to be the end of the Longhorn comeback, and a big momentum swing in Tech’s favor. Zhaire Smith has been making plays like that all year and is a big reason why he’s showing up on NBA draft boards.
Keenan Evans - We could have a section dedicated to Evans for every game. Once again Tech’s lead man came up big. Scoring 25 points total - 18 in the second half alone - Evans was the main reason Texas’ comeback attempt fell short. Right when it seemed like Texas was going to take the lead, Evans hit a clutch step back reminiscent of his game winner. Knowing that Keenan Evans is back to playing like one of the best players in the country is great news going forward.
Injuries - Justin Gray and Keenan Evans were back to looking like their usual selves. Though Gray was nonexistent on offense, his defense on Matt Coleman was fairly impressive forcing Coleman to 5/14 shooting. Zach Smith still didn’t look 100% but arguably played his best game since coming back from injury. On the other hand, the injury bug on the Longhorns side was definitely felt. Bamba seemed to be put on a minutes restriction and only played 14 minutes. Longhorns fans will likely be wondering “what if” had he been able to play the entire game, but even when he was in his usual defensive presence was not the same. Bamba only managed one block and four rebounds as opposed to his last performance against Tech where he had seven blocks and 10 rebounds.
This game started out as a Red Raider romp but quickly turned into a battle. Tech did a good job of riding the large run by Texas in the second half to prevail. Now it’s time to forget this game and turn our attention to arguably the most dangerous team in the entire tournament, the West Virginia Mountaineers.