Smooth Sailing for Tubby on Opening Night

If anything, Tubby Smith's Red Raiders 1.0 looked a bit better than expected in dispatching Houston Baptist 76-61. But Tech didn't really take total command of this game and create the impression of a well-oiled machine until the second half. Birthday boy Jordan Tolbert led the way for the Red Raiders with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

A Very Solid Beginning: If anything, Tubby Smith's Red Raiders 1.0 looked a bit better than expected in dispatching Houston Baptist 76-61. But Tech didn't really take total command of this game and create the impression of a well-oiled machine until the second half.

In the first half, the Red Raiders methodically hacked out an eight-point lead, although they looked rather pedestrian in doing so. Tech shot only 40 percent in the opening stanza and those misses came from all over the court. Dejan Kravic blew multiple bunnies, and the Red Raider guards were anything but sharpshooters as Tech connected on only one of eight shots from three-point territory. But on the positive side—and this is the stat I always look at first—the Red Raiders owned the glass, out-rebounding the Huskies 23-15.

In the second half, however, Tech began to feel its oats. The Red Raiders connected on 18 of 34 shots, and managed even to knock down a pair of key threes, although they were still far from proficient in this area. Tech also did an exemplary job of valuing the rock as the Red Raiders committed only three turnovers in the second stanza.

Tech's defense was consistently good the whole evening as the Red Raiders held Houston Baptist to 29 percent shooting from the field and harassed the Huskies into 18 turnovers, 11 of which came in the second half. The Red Raiders only pressed on a couple of possessions, the reason being that Tubby Smith felt his team was not yet ready to apply heavy pressure, he was concerned with HBU's quickness in the backcourt, and he witnessed the Husky guards beating the Red Raiders off the dribble early on. But expect to see more pressure in the future. In the meantime half-court and help-side defense looks sound.

Size and Depth: One of the most striking things about the Red Raiders is their size and depth in the frontcourt. With Dejan Kravic and Kader Tapsoba, Tubby Smith has two seven-footers who are good enough to play significant minutes. Tapsoba is more physical, but Kravic has a more complete game. Then, with Jordan Tolbert, Jaye Crockett, Alex Foster and Aaron Ross, he has a quartet of players in the 6' 7" to 6' 8" range, and all of them are solid physical specimens with real skill and athleticism. That is six legitimate guys to play the three, four and five spots. And if the Red Raiders foul as much as they did against Houston Baptist (they committed 20 infractions, and five players finished with at least three fouls), they will need that depth.

Kravic's Strange Game: It is easy to focus on Dejan Kravic's miserable night from the field. He connected on only two of seven shots, and his five misses were all bunnies that should have gone down. For a player who towered over just about everybody on the court, there was no excuse for missing those point-blank shots. But Kravic contributed in more subtle ways. He blocked three shots, dished out three assists and got a steal. Kravic has always been inconsistent on the offensive end, but when he's connecting inside and contributing as he's capable of in the other areas, Kravic will be a force.

Point Guard in Good Hands: The glowing preliminary reports on Robert Turner were accurate. Once he settled into the game, he was a huge contributor. Turner chipped in a dozen points on six of 11 shooting, dished out two assists and got one steal while committing a pair of turnovers. And his assist total would have been considerably higher if certain players had hit easy shots.

Turner is a real bundle of energy. He makes things happen when he's on the court. He scores on a variety of pull-ups, runners and floaters, and has the vision and court awareness of a true point guard. Turner probably won't put up the incredible steal totals of last year's point guard Josh Gray, but he will exhibit better judgment and be a stronger asset on the offensive end of the court.

But the backup point guard situation remains a question mark. Luke Adams is currently slated for that role, but he struggled against the Huskies, giving up dribble penetration and committing a foul and a turnover in only eight minutes. He also missed his only two shots. If Adams cannot step it up, look for true freshman Randy Onwuasor to get the call here. He played 13 minutes and looked like he belonged on the court.

Williams Will Help: When the offense is struggling, look for Jamal Williams to get the call. He's a streaky player, but he really has the ability to create his own shot, and is very capable of knocking down the three. Bombing from downtown is supposed to be Dusty Hannah's job, but if he's not cutting the mustard, it's good to know Williams will be another option.

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