Big 8 Mentality

The Red Raiders fell again on Tuesday to the Sooners and Joe Yeager breaks down the loss.

Big 8 Mentality: I was most amused as the television commentary duo proceeded to discourse on the fantastic shooters to be found on coaching staffs of Big 12 basketball teams. They talked up Lon Kruger and Steve Henson among others. But in a glaring omission, they failed to mention probably the greatest pure shooter in the history of the Southwest Conference, and a fellow who was sitting on the Texas Tech bench only a few yards away from them. I speak, of course, of former Texas Tech superstar, Bubba Jennings.


I suppose I can't blame the commentators too much, though. Like many basketball types north of the Red River, their world consists of the Big 8 and Big 12. The SWC just does not register. But it's funny how this mentality persists to the present day.


I'm Not Laughing at the Joke: At halftime of their loss at Oklahoma, Texas Tech had 22 points and 15 turnovers. Digging down a bit statistically, the Red Raiders had 68 percent as many turnovers as they did points.


Obviously, there is a direct relationship between numerous turnovers and few points. And losses.


When the Red Raiders stopped turning the ball over in the first portion of the second half, they made a strong run at the Sooners. If Tech can reduce their turnovers by, let's say, 40 percent, they will win a few games in the Big 12 this year. If not, they could go winless. It's as simple as that.


Why So Many Turnovers? Fortunately, Tech's turnover problems are correctable because they stem, by and large, from dumb play. And dumb play typically springs from inexperience.


Right now, Tech's guards—and I'm looking long and hard at Javarez Willis—are simply not seeing the court well, not anticipating defenders, and are forcing the ball where it cannot go. Of course, Robert Lewandowski's basalt hands are also part of the problem, as is Jordan Tolbert's bull in a China shop routine. The former, Billy Clyde Gillispie will have to live with for the remainder of the season. The latter should diminish as Tolbert gains experience.


Crockett the Rocket: As I mentioned in a previous piece, this is becoming Jaye Crockett's basketball team. He proved it again against OU, scoring 14 points on four of eight shooting, grabbing 10 rebounds and turning the ball over only once in 21 minutes of play.


Crockett is rapidly developing into the sort of player Jordan Tolbert needs to be. In other words, Crockett is simultaneously dynamic and patient. He finds multiple ways to score without forcing the issue. And, of course, he's a very good rebounder.


Tolbert Will Come To: Talented freshman Jordan Tolbert is obviously struggling big-time in conference play. And those struggles continued against Oklahoma in what may have been Tolbert's worst game as a collegian.


Tolbert scored only five points on one of 10 shooting, turned the ball over five times and missed several crucial free throws. Tolbert's saving grace was rebounding; he pulled down 10 caroms as the Red Raiders outrebounded the Sooners by three on the game.


Despite Tolbert's slump, however, I do not doubt he'll snap out of it. Tolbert is a tough and very determined player who believes in his abilities. He won't curl up into a ball and disappear. At some point the shots will begin falling again for Tolbert and he'll reemerge as the force he was in non-conference play.

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