Should’ve could’ves and what-ifs abounded as the mistake prone Red Raider men’s basketball team came home from their trip to Rhode Island last week with their first defeat. My eyeballs told me that Texas Tech had the more talented players, but Providence proved to be the better team. A comedy of errors, that frankly weren’t that funny to Tech fans, manifested themselves in the form of bad shot selections, inability to adjust to tight foul calls, and selfish or just plain dumb plays. It appeared that this team still needed time together.
Fast forward six days to Tuesday and the basketball team proved the talent is indeed there to be a NCAA tournament team. We will get to the negatives of the ugly part of this game later. I can feel some of you questioning the first sentence of this paragraph. At the end of the day, Tech beat the 13th ranked Tennessee Volunteers on a neutral court. That will carry more weight at the end of the year than the four point loss to Providence will hurt. Tech showed heart, desire, and toughness. When Tennessee tied it up with a three point shot and seemed to gain the momentum, Tech took it right back in overtime and never gave it up.
The good, the bad, and the ugly theme has been overplayed so I didn’t want to use that as a theme for this article even though it fits amazingly well. So I’ll dedicate one paragraph to it. The good was obviously the win. The good was the fight the team showed and the ability to overcome some adversity. The bad was the ugliness from the Providence game reared its head again. The bad was shot selection, turnovers, and some dumb plays. The ugly was definitely the second half of the game. The ugly was the long scoring droughts from both teams and the inability to even make free throws. My Momma always told me that ugly needed love too. She said I was handsome so I knew she wasn’t talking about me directly.
Terrence Shannon Jr. led all scorers with 18 points and all rebounders with 12 total rebounds. I believe this was Tech’s first player with a double double this season. Shannon appears to be the catalyst for this season. How he goes, Tech will go. Shannon seemed to play better in this game than the last but that may be due to the fact he wasn’t in immediate foul trouble like he was against Providence. No comment so that I don’t get fined and/ or suspended. He probably needs to be a little more assertive during times when Tech is faced with another scoring drought and drive the lane more to try to draw a foul but I’ll certainly defer to the coaching staff on such strategies.
Let me make it officially known that I’m a Daniel Batcho stan. Twitter bio updated. I love that Coach Mark Adams has already greatly incorporated Batcho into game plans. He is not a project big man like the prior coach would bring in every season. Batcho could very well be a legit star in a few years. Let’s keep him around. Shannon was the man this game, don’t get me wrong, but Batcho is my player of the game. Batcho only had four points but he had 11 rebounds, two blocks, and several hustle plays. He altered shots he didn’t block. He saved a few balls from going out of bounds to keep the Red Raiders in possession and helped secure several rebounds even if he didn’t technically get the rebound himself. Frankly, his four points were 100% of the points scored by a Tech non-starter. That’s how you put a positive spin on the fact that Tech’s bench scored only four points boys and girls.
Kevin Obanor and Davion Warren each had 10 points each as Tech had three players total in double figures. Kevin McCullar almost joined Shannon in the double double category as he had eight points and 10 rebounds. Bryson Williams rounded out the scoring for Tech with seven points. This game was won by the starters. The rotation is starting to shrink and it’s been more obvious these past two games. Only seven players played 10 minutes or more. Batcho and Adonis Arms were the bench players that received those minutes along with the starters (Obanor, Williams, Warren, Shannon, and McCullar).
As I alluded earlier, it wasn’t all pretty. Tennessee blocked eight of Tech players’ shots. There were several times when a simple jump stop would have prevented this and possibly ended with Red Raider points and a victory in regulation. Tech only had nine assists on 61 shots. This trend started in Rhode Island and needs to be corrected in time for Big 12 play. Tech missed a lot of shots (they made 19 of 61) so that statistic is somewhat misleading but still needs to be rectified. The Red Raiders committed 15 turnovers and only forced nine Tennessee turnovers. The coaching staff would like to see those numbers reversed.
The major issue with the game is the scoring droughts. Tech has had long scoring droughts in back to back games against tougher competition. Maybe this is why Coach Adams said he wanted to work on offense first because it takes longer. The players definitely need more time on scoring against the zone and not settling on jump shots. While the Volunteers weren’t much better, Red Raiders shot 16.7% from behind the arc (4-24). I’m going to go out on a limb here and proclaim that is not good at all. The good news on that is Tennessee actually shot 40 three point shots and only made six.
However, let’s end on a positive note. The season is still young. We are only eight games in and the Red Raiders have nine transfers this season. It would be foolish to expect a new head coach with new assistant coaches and so many new players to be clicking on all cylinders so soon. While I’m sure there will be a few more bumps in the road this season (maybe Gonzaga), fans can see that there is real talent on this roster. They just need more time to gel and gain comfort in the new offensive philosophy. Fans forget but it really wasn’t until mid-February before the 2019 Final Four team gelled. Let’s just hope they get it figured out by February 1st.
Until then, lets just celebrate this win in all it’s glory and ugliness. The players overcame adversity and that will help them going forward for the rest of the season. It’s definitely more fun to learn from a win than a loss. Coach Adams earned his first win over a top 15 team and Red Raider fans can certainly celebrate that. If I know my fellow Red Raider fans, we know how to celebrate.