Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

Two recurring themes for Texas Tech showed up in Monday night's victory over Texas Southern.

All the goodwill of the Tubby Smith era aside, Texas Tech has some identifiable problems that need to be solved before Big 12 play starts.

It's nice to defeat a Houston Baptist, Northern Arizona, or Texas Southern. But if Texas Tech allows a player such as Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart or Kansas' Andrew Wiggins – who they're bound to meet once conference season begins – to have a night that Texas Southern forward Jose Rodriguez had Monday night, it won't be as peachy for the Red Raiders.

Rodriguez scored 29 points, 11 of which came from the free-throw line. His damage came from consistent drives to the hoop (he did shoot 8-for-16), which plays a role in why he went to the line so frequently.

"Jose is really good going to the basket," Texas Southern head coach Mike Davis said. "It's almost impossible for a guy to keep up with him on the dribble. He really takes advantage of that in the open court."

Tech literally had no answer for the slashing Rodriguez, as he created space for himself to operate effectively. This is a similar tune the Red Raiders have heard before: against Alabama last Thursday, all-SEC guard Trevor Releford torched the Red Raiders with 11 field goals made (including five threes) and 29 to help the Tide roll to a 76-64 victory over Tech.

If Texas Tech learns how to prevent outbreaks such as Releford's and Rodriguez's (or worse yet, Wiggins or Smart's) over the course of the season, it will be much easier to build upon their results for Smith's teams later on.

The second issue
Texas Tech continued to foul over and over again on Monday, another major problem the team will face once they play more relevant teams such as Kansas or Oklahoma State. In this case, Tech was beaten on many major statistical categories:

- Outshot (58-56)

- Outshot from three (7-for-18 versus 4-for-13)

- Outshot at the free-throw line (20-for-29 compared to 16-for-27)

- Outrebounded (37 to 34)

Jaye Crockett did note the changes in the rules did affect why Tech was having such a hard time keeping out of foul trouble.

"The new foul calls they're calling is making it hard to guard people in penetration," Crockett said. "And even in the post, you'd usually give them a hand check, but they [the rules] said you can't hand check anymore, so it's kind of difficult." Tech, a typically aggressive defensive team, had their hands tied behind their back in terms of defense, thus watching Texas Southern drive inside and draw multiple fouls (and several fouls away from the basket as well).

Ironically, Texas Tech was not as guilty of "too many fouls" as Texas Southern was; the foul difference was only 23-22 to the Red Raiders, and the free throw differential was more pronounced because Tech missed 11 shots at the line (including Turner, who missed three of his four attempts). And to add to that notion, three Texas Southern players fouled out of the game; no Red Raiders did so.

A few words of warning for Texas Tech: target and stop the opposing team's best player, and prevent him from going to the foul line as frequently as Rodriguez did on Monday. Especially if he's a wing player and the opposing team's top scorer.

"When you're a bigger team and you're going against a smaller guy, it's just gonna be tough," coach Tubby Smith said. "I thought their transition offense really hurt us early on, and we did a poor job in transition…but again, that's their game, and we knew it coming in, but until you play a game you can't simulate the speed that they have."

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