Coming of Age: The Texas Tech basketball program is far from being on anybody's radar at this point, but baby steps are being taken in the right direction. Following the Red Raiders' 71-69 win over West Virginia, Tech has now won two of its last four games, and given the botched opportunities against the University of Texas, should have won three of its last four.
This Red Raider team is clearly growing up and evolving into something semi-respectable. The players' and coaches' hard work, and the pertinacious refusal to wither and die following horrendous losses to the likes of Oklahoma State and Kansas, is finally paying off at the end of the season.
Now Tech may very well lose by 30 points to the Jayhawks in their next outing (I think the game will be much closer than that), but if there were 10 more games left in the conference season, one could easily imagine the Red Raiders clawing their way into the middle of the Big 12 pack. That is something Kirby Hocutt will have to consider as he appoints Tech's new head basketball coach.
Winning Weirdly: The Red Raiders certainly turned vinegar into wine against the Mountaineers. Free throw shooting, offensive rebounding and three-point shooting had been nettlesome bugbears for Tech all season, yet here the Red Raiders were, shooting 71 percent from the free throw line, 67 percent from three-point range, and pulling down 11 offensive boards, two more than the malefic minions from Morgantown. Sure, the Red Raiders missed a few key charity shots down the stretch, but that was counterbalanced by Dejan Kravic's putback with .04 on the clock to send Tech into the winners' circle.
College hoops is certainly an unpredictable sport.
Excellent Execution: If the game were confined to in-bounds plays and set pieces out of times out, Chris Walker's team might be undefeated this year. A bit of an exaggeration, yes, but in-bounds plays have been one of Tech's few strengths this year, and the Red Raiders added a few beautiful plays following times out to help beat West Virginia. The design and execution of these plays was textbook…flawless.
A Brief Tyrade: Senior guard Ty Nurse got off to a sizzling start against WVU. He connected on three straight three-point shots and scored nine of Tech's first 12 points. Nurse's play was absolutely critical to the Red Raiders building a nice cushion early on.
Why, then, with around 14 minutes left to play in the first half, did Chris Walker pull Nurse and replace him with Dusty Hannahs, who immediately got burned by Terry Henderson for a three-pointer which got the Mountaineers off the schneide?
Nurse didn't need a blow. He's a young, well-conditioned athlete who could have been playing in his final game of college basketball. He could have played the full 40 minutes if needed. Perplexing. Downright perplexing.
Future Full of Full Houses: Josh Gray, all six-foot-one and 175 pounds of him, actually flirted with a triple double against West Virginia. He scored 10 points, pulled down seven rebounds and dished six assists. I'm sure it's happened, but I don't recall a Tech basketball player recording a triple double. And I sure don't remember a little point guard doing it. You've got to think Gray, who's developing a pretty salty all-around game, may have a few of those in his Tech future.