Red Raiders Put on a Clinic

It hasn't taken Tubby Smith long to make his mark on the Texas Tech basketball program. In only his second game as head coach—I've got to say it—the Red Raiders looked more impressive than they have in years. To a certain extent, that may not seem like a tremendous accomplishment. Tech hoops were a nightmare under Chris Walker, Billy Clyde Gillispie, and for a majority of the time, Pat Knight.

It hasn't taken Tubby Smith long to make his mark on the Texas Tech basketball program. In only his second game as head coach—I've got to say it—the Red Raiders looked more impressive than they have in years.

To a certain extent, that may not seem like a tremendous accomplishment. After all, Tech hoops were a nightmare under Chris Walker, Billy Clyde Gillispie, and for the vast majority of the time, under Pat Knight. Heck, even the later Bob Knight years were nothing to rave about. But if you were fortunate enough to watch Smith's Red Raider put on a show against a decent Northern Arizona team, you know that the quality of basketball in Lubbock has already jigged upward massively.

Budding phenom Robert Turner was the obvious headliner in a 20-point Tech victory that could easily have been a 30-point spread. He was unconscious early, draining five straight three-pointers, and helping stake Tech to a 42-35 halftime advantage. Thing is, he never really cooled off. En route to a 21-point outing, Turner connected on eight of 11 shots, dished out four assists, recorded a steal, and didn't commit a single turnover.

But Turner had help. All kinds of help. Indeed, practically everybody Smith put on the court played quality ball. Dusty Hannahs filled his role as a deep marksman, but also played some tenacious D. In addition to his 14 points, Hannahs got a pair of steals and handed out four assists.

As an aside, the Red Raiders had 19 assists to go against a mere 10 turnovers. On offense Tech looked like a veteran club playing in midseason form. Spacing was excellent, interior passing was good and forced shots were minimal. That is why the Red Raiders shot 59 percent from the floor.

Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert, who go together like chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, did their usual damage, combining for 26 points on 12 of 15 shooting, to go along with 11 rebounds, four assists and one blocked shot.

Luke Adams had a much better game than he did against Houston Baptist. He only played eight minutes, but guided the Red Raiders competently while Robert Turner took a powder.

Aaron Ross showed some real ability. Playing the five as well as the four position, Ross showed a nice combination of power and finesse. He can throw his bulky six-foot-eight frame around, but also demonstrates a soft shooting touch, and the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the hoop.

Toddrick Gotcher showed signs of developing into a nice role player for this squad. Although listed as a six-foot-four 195-pound guard, Gotcher has the physicality, the springs and the nose for the ball to play the three position effectively if need be. He's always been a good on-the-ball defender but is now adding a very strong rebounding component to his game. He had four caroms against the Lumberjacks.

But all of these disparate elements meshed and played a high level of team ball. After building a nine-point advantage late in the first half, the Red Raiders did not wilt when NAU made a charge to try to close the gap before halftime. Instead, Tech repelled the visitors and maintained a solid seven-point edge.

In the second half, NAU was never able to mount a serious threat. Dusty Hannahs made a three-point jumper with 19:13 to play and the Red Raiders were off to the races, leading by as many as 28 points.

Second half keys were defense and rebounding. The Red Raiders did a great job of contesting every shot and the Lumberjacks shot only 39 percent as a consequence. Northern Arizona actually out-rebounded Tech by one in the first half; when the dust cleared, Tech held a decisive 33-23 edge on the glass.

Naturally, we must temper our excitement. This was only one game, and Northern Arizona, while a solid outfit, won't be confused with Louisville. And as a fairly young team under a new head coach, these Red Raiders will have bad games and take their lumps. But the upside is most certainly there. We caught a glimpse of it against NAU.

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