Texas Tech FINALLY showed some life against the Longhorns in Austin, but they still came up short losing 72-70. Now, you hate taking moral victories, but Tech took a lot of steps forward and showed that there might be some hope for this basketball season. Next up is Baylor at home, another dog fight in the Big 12.
I’m gonna go through Baylors impact players and my keys to the game. Baylor is also experiencing an up and down season, so this should be a fun one.
Impact Players: Baylor Bears
Keyonte George is just a true freshman and he’s arguably already a top 5 player in the conference. He is an elite shooter with some great playmaking ability and can take just about anyone off the dribble. I hate to admit it, but outside of Tech players, he’s probably my favorite player in the Big 12.
George probably has the highest pro potential of any player in the Big 12. He's averaging 17.2 PPG along with 4.8 boards and 3.5 assists. He’s an all around threat with good length and an elite stroke from outside. George had a stretch against TCU, KSU and WVU that he scored 27, 22, and 32 points in each of those games. To do that in the Big 12 takes elite talent, and to do that as a true freshman shows just how good George is. The key to stopping George is really just keeping the ball out of his hands. If you deny him the ball and limit his touches, the less he can do to you.
Jalen Bridges is new to Baylor, but he isn’t new to Big 12 competition. Bridges is a transfer from West Virginia, where he was consistently one of the Mountaineers best players. Bridges doesn’t have stats that are always gonna pop out, but he’s an extremely lengthy and athletic forward that makes him a great defensive threat. He’s averaging 1.2 blocks and 0.6 steals per game, and he’s really a defensive pest at times.
Bridges is only averaging 9 PPG, but that number could easily be higher. His freshman year at WVU, he was shooting 41% from 3, this season that number is down to just 22%. If you leave him open, he can make you pay, all he has to do is get out of the slump he’s currently in.
The last guy I’m gonna talk about is Adam Flagler. Flagler is a guy that everyone in the Big 12 knows. He’s a senior for the Bears and is having his best season yet statistically. Flagler is shooting an amazing 48% from 3 while attempting more than 6 shots from 3 per game. He is an elite shooter that Tech CANNOT leave open, or he will kill them from outside.
Along with Flagler being an elite shooter, he’s an amazing playmaker. He will find open guys and make you pay for playing too aggressive. Flagler is an extremely experienced guard that can and will make life hell for Tech if they don’t play their best defense.
Keys to the game:
Offensive ball movement
Tech had massive improvements last game against Texas offensively. They moved the ball, got more open looks and turned in a lot of those looks for points. It’s no coincidence that this also happened the game that Fardaws Aimaq made his debut for the Red Raiders. Aimaq was able to finally bring a huge post threat that forced doubles, and Aimaq was able to make multiple plays to get open shots for others.
Tech needs to build off of this. There still needs to be more off-ball movement by the Red Raiders. There are proven shooters on this roster that really just need more open looks to get going, and Tech can get that with more off-ball movement and off-ball screens.
Tech has had the tendency to leave a lot of shooters open this season. That can’t happen against Baylor, or else you will get boat raced. Baylor has 6 guys that shoot 30% or better from 3. All of their guards are threats from 3 and off the dribble, and their forwards are more than capable of shooting the ball also.
Tech needs to have controlled close outs, don’t bite on pump fakes, and play just really sound defense. The Texas game got away from the Red Raiders when they left Marcus Carr open multiple times from 3 and the midrange. Baylor has just as lethal shooters, and Tech could have the same fate if they continue this trend.
Be Street Dogs
Listen, everyone knows that the Big 12 is a fight. Every single night. Tonight is no different. Tech is going into a must win situation against an extremely talented Baylor team and losing isn’t an option. This team needs to show that street dog mentality that we all expect from Texas Tech basketball.
No more excuses. No more chances. It’s time to win. It’s time for the Red Raiders to get on track in the Big 12 race, and it’s time to start fighting for a bid in March Madness. LETS GO, get those guns up, let’s have the USA rocking tonight.