Texas Tech’s game against Southern Mississippi was one of those wins that felt like a loss.
Fans spent the better part of last week celebrating a Red Raider victory over then top-ranked Louisville. The expectation was that Tech would cruise to 3 more victories at home before Big XII Conference play began. Southern Miss shattered that expectation pretty quick. The Golden Eagles came in ready to knock Tech back out of the Top 25, and it appeared for the first half that the Red Raiders weren’t trying hard to subvert that. It wasn’t until the 8:54 mark in the 2nd half that Tech held the lead for good. A late 6-1 run by Southern Miss cut Tech’s lead to only 2 with less than 3 minutes to play.
Tech allowed two players from Southern Miss to score 20+ points (LaDavius Drane and Gabe Watson), which accounted for 41 of the team’s 65 points. That’s a whopping 63% of the teams point total. Watson made a 3 pointer before the half-time buzzer that increased the Golden Eagles’ lead to 7 at the break.
Tech played with passion and fire versus Louisville but they played flat and uninspired for most of the game versus Southern Miss. The crowd at United Supermarkets Arena followed their lead and provided little energy. But it’s hard to blame the fans when the team gave little reason to cheer. It certainly wasn’t a lack of trying.
Chris Beard’s frustration and disappointment in his team was evident in the press conference. The body language resembled more of a team that lost than one that was victorious.
It’s always better to learn a lesson during a win rather than a loss. This young team is getting the reputation of playing up or down to the level of its competition.
Evaluating Tech’s performance
- Davide Moretti - Another game, another poor shooting performance in the first half. Davide contributed an inefficient 17 points on 17 FG shots (6 of 6 from FT line). Unfortunately, he also committed 4 turnovers to only 1 assist. As the kids say these days, that ain’t it fam. As Coach Beard alluded to, he has to contribute more in other ways whether his shot is falling or not.
- Avery Benson - Benson was the only bench player with double-digit playing minutes (14). He hit his only shot attempt in the game and finished with 3 points and 1 rebound. This was a far cry from his heroics in the Louisville game. While his 3 pointer briefly excited the crowd, AB failed to provide the same spark in the team that we saw in the last game. On a side note, his hair was still amazing.
- Terrence Shannon, Jr - TJ Shannon finished the game as the leading scorer. He was aggressive to the basket for the most part and provided much more offensive efficiency than Kyler or Davide. Shannon has been growing up before our eyes these past few games and it’s obvious that this team will need him as much as it will need Jahmi’us Ramsey down the stretch.
- The Bench - Chris Beard shortened the bench for this game as all five starters played 28+ minutes and all bench players not named Avery Benson played 6 minutes or less. This was a coach’s decision but Tech will need more than a 6 player rotation (7 with Ramsey) to even sniff that Monday night championship game in April.
- Leadership - If the aliens come to invade this basketball team, and they say, “take me to your leader,” to whom are they being led? Norense Odiase was the unquestioned leader last year. Davide has the experience in the system but may not have the mannerisms. At this point in the season, the freshman duo of Ramsey and Shannon definitely have the potential, but they lack the time in the program that is required to earn it (at least right now). Senior grad transfer TJ Holyfield has been too foul prone and inconsistent. Chris Clarke probably has the best chance due to the fact he usually fills the stat sheet but his sense of humor has helped him fulfill the glue guy role and I wonder if that can morph into a leadership role.
At the end of the day, somebody will need to own the leadership role to avoid another game performance like this one. Conference play is around the corner and first half performances like this one that has plagued this team in the early part of the season will result in a deficit too large for this team to overcome.
This team hasn’t accomplished anything but a 7-3 record. While there is some serious potential, as we saw in the performance versus Louisville, there is also some concern. This team will need to learn to play consistent rather than to the level of its opponent. Efforts that we saw versus Southern Miss will humble a coach, a team, and a fan base quick.