Yeager Shots: Northern Kentucky

Joe Yeager shares his thoughts following the Red Raiders win on Tuesday night.

Cavalcade of Slop: Northern Kentucky is not as bad as their 0-6 record and history of futility against D-1 competition suggests. They are well coached, mentally tough and obviously can shoot the orange. Nevertheless, this is a team Texas Tech should have whipped by 26 rather than survived by six.

 

And despite allowing the Norse (why not Norsemen?) to connect on seven of 14 three-pointers in the first half, the Red Raiders were poised to mop the floor with the visitors in the second half. Tech led by 20 points with about 13 minutes to play before basically folding and allowing NKU back into it.

 

So, what happened? Two things. First, unforced turnovers. The Red Raiders committed 12 second-half TOs and the vast majority of them were unforced. The guards, particularly Josh Gray, forced the issue in half-court sets. Worse, Tech blew multiple fast-break opportunities through carelessness borne of excessive showmanship. If the Red Raiders had simply executed fundamentally sound fast breaks rather than gunning for Sports Center fame, Tech would have put the Norse away early.

 

Second, the Red Raiders missed a ton of free throws. Tech was 10 of 20 from the charity stripe in the second half. Needless to say, that is unacceptable.

 

Four Minutes of Hell: The Red Raiders play defense in bursts. There are those times when this team cranks up the boost, that you can see what Chris Walker envisions for the future. Tech looks like it has six players on the court, forces turnovers, and clearly rattles the opposition.

 

That is what John Thompson's great Georgetown teams did. That is what Nolan Richardson's best Arkansas squads did. But those teams brought the heat for a full 40 minutes. And they didn't view a 20-point lead as an opportunity clown around and devolve into a Baltimore playground collection. Oh no. When blood was in the water, those teams took it as a signal to kick the frenzy to an even higher level. And that 20-point lead soon mushroomed to 35 rather than dwindle to six.

 

Chris Walker's team must learn. They must learn that four minutes of hell is not enough. If defense is your calling card, then you must play it for 40 minutes.

 

The Rotation: It appeared to me that Coach Walker's rotation was more subdued this game, particularly in the second half. And I think this paid dividends in the form of a 20-point lead. When a group is playing well, there's no need to disrupt it. Let that group play until it plays itself out, then substitute.

 

Trency Trouble: For the life of me I cannot understand why Trency Jackson, a 60-percent free throw shooter, was on the court when Northern Kentucky was making its late run and putting Tech on the line every possession. Jackson missed several free throws down the stretch and aided NKU's comeback effort. Luke Adams and Ty Nurse, both terrific free throw shooters, would have been better options.

 

Tapped Out: I was a bit surprised that Kader Tapsoba did not play in this one. Particularly with Dejan Kravic picking up two quick fouls. Tapsoba, I thought, was one of Tech's better performers against Arizona.

 

Glass Patrol: The Red Raiders outrebounded Northern Kentucky 31-15. I don't remember the last time Tech doubled up the opposition on the glass. It doesn't happen often.

 

Settling Influences: Tech's most mature, mistake-free players at this point are Jaye Crockett and Jamal Williams. Given that the Red Raiders are making far too many rookie mistakes, it is probably meet that Crockett and Williams spend as little time on the bench as possible.

 

Crockett hoisted up a couple of bad trifectas against the Norse, but other than that, played his usual smooth, patient game. He's a good example to the team's youngsters.

 

Williams is simply a glue guy. He's not a stat sheet stuffer, but his plusses outweigh his debits, and the team plays better when he's on the court.


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