It’s going to be alright.
That’s the main message I want Red Raider fans to take away from this loss. Tech shot 16% from beyond the arch, 32% from the field, had eight turnovers in the first ten minutes of the game, and missed several defensive rotations early on. They still almost won, and even when coming back missed a lot of easy looks. Without going too in depth (I’ll get to that later on) Davide Moretti had his worst game since the Michigan State Final Four match, going 2-8 from the field and 2-7 from deep, and Jahmi’us Ramsey got hurt on a play that probably should’ve been a foul. Those are the two best players on this team, and both had off nights despite getting quite a few good looks. We will look back on this loss as a turning point for this team, regardless of how the rest of the season plays out, but ultimately I still have confidence that this loss was merely a result of an outlier shooting night from a young team.
Texas Tech got on the board first thanks to two Davide Moretti free throws, and then briefly retook a 4-3 lead on a Kyler Edwards midrange jumper. That would be the last time Tech led all night, as Iowa would roll off a 16-6 run to make it 19-10. The Red Raiders would briefly tread water as Iowa began to cool of from a 7-14 start from deep, however T.J. Holyfield getting in foul trouble allowed Luka Garza to take over. The Hawkeyes stretched their lead to 36-21 with just two minutes left. Kevin McCullar finally broke the run for Iowa with a lay-in, then Jahmi’us Ramsey hit Tech’s first three of the game with just 50 seconds left in the half. Tech stopped Iowa on their last possession, however Chris Clarke missed a wide open Moretti in favor of a contested three to end the half. The Red Raiders went to the locker room down 36-26.
Tech briefly brought the gap back down to six off a Moretti three, but that run was soon quelled off a three from Jordan Bohannon of Iowa. Ramsey and Moro continued to struggle, and aside from Chris Clarke there wasn’t any sort of rhythm to the offense. Ramsey missed a few good looks, Terrence Shannon struggled, and in general the Red Raiders were not making Iowa pay for some mediocre defense. Things were starting to look upwards until Jahmi’us injured his left leg with around ten minutes to go in the half. The freshman went to the locker room and did not return to . Surprisingly, Tech went on a 12-4 run over the next five minutes to cut it to a two point deficit, but perimeter woes continued to plague the Red Raiders, as Terrence Shannon, Davide Moretti, and Kyler Edwards all missed easy shots that could’ve put the Red Raiders ahead.
Down the stretch Iowa continued to hit some crazy shots, namely a deep, contested three by CJ Frederick to put the Hawkeyes up five. T.J. Holyfield missed an easy layup on the other end, and at that point Iowa was essentially playing the free throw game. Holyfield missed yet another layup, and a frustration foul by Terrence Shannon on Iowa’s best free throw shooter (Bohannon) essentially put the game away. Tech lost 72-61, with the 11 point margin mainly coming off repeated intentional fouls and subsequent offensive misses.
What this means going forward:
Usually I include game notes and stats in this section, but due to the back to back nature of this tournament I think it will be more useful to summarize those into a separate article after watching film on both games.
- Chris Clarke was the best player for the Red Raiders in the second half, but he was also a large part of the issue in the first half. He was getting targeted on perimeter switches by Iowa’s guards, and was responsible for multiple missed defensive rotations that led to threes. He also committed three first half turnovers, and at times limited his field of vision to one side of the court offensively, which meant he missed opportunities to hit Moretti and Ramsey for wide open threes. He was much better in the second half, and I have to give him credit there. We had no offense without Chris Clakrke early on in the second half.
- Tons of missed looks by Jahmi’us prior to injury made life difficult for Tech, but it’s clear that Beard trusts him. His first step is lethal and his jumper is still fairly reliable. I’m not too concerned with his play, though I’d like to see him be a little more patient on drives to avoid dribble turnovers.
- Moretti had his first regular season game with an ORTG under 100 since January of last year (against KSU). That’s an 18 game stretch of above average offensive efficiency for Moro that got broken. Not many mistakes for him tonight, just shots that normally hit weren’t dropping. I’m not concerned.
- Holyfield has to avoid foul trouble. He has a bad tendency to get fouls when boxing out, and that will be exploited by teams over time.
- I was impressed by the aggression from both Terrence Shannon and Kyler Edwards. Neither shot the ball well, but they are arguably the most versatile starters we have and are aggressive in getting inside. A good discussion has been brought up on whether Kyler should still start, and I am firmly of the opinion that he should remain in the line-up. His perimeter defense is great, and offensively he’s the most versatile threat we have. If his shot starts falling it will put him firmly in the conversation for our best player.
- Ultimately: I’m not concerned about this loss. This was an outlier game to the third degree from a shooting perspective, and crazy things happen in November turnovers. Xavier lost in this very tournament to an Arizona State team that was on the bubble two years ago. The Musketeers ended up a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. This team is young, and these experiences will help in March.