"We want at least 35 deflections per game."
I've heard this plenty of times from the Texas Tech basketball team already, and it's gonna be a recurring theme for the rest of the season.
To get such a number of deflections in a game is a new challenge, but a good one for a team blessed with a combination of athletic players like Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert; big men with long arms, such as Kader Tapsoba and Dejan Kravic; and speedy, feisty guards such as Robert Turner and reserve Jamal Williams, Jr.
But it's a point being driven by Tubby Smith, who's been calling for this defensive philosophy since before basketball season started last Friday.
Texas Tech defeated South Dakota State on Thursday, 68-54, in a game which saw Tech force 14 turnovers, get 10 steals and block four shots. When asked about Smith's pleasure with Thursday's ‘deflection' numbers, forward Jaye Crockett gave a brief "Yes, he was," but emphasized another key improvement: Tech's free-throw percentage. Yes, those matter, especially with a team who's been outshot by each of their last four opponents.
But it's hard to miss the emphasis Smith has put on deflections. He wants blocked shots, turnovers on the other team, and plenty of steals. He wants more pressure on guards and forwards and particularly lead ball-handlers. He understands that more on-ball pressure equals more opportunities to run and score in transitions (Tech had eight on Thursday). Even if the team isn't as talented as much of the Big 12, they surely won't be a pushover with Smith at the helm.
There's always a value in playing what most fans refer to as "lesser" opponents, like Texas Southern or Houston Baptist or South Dakota State. It allows a team to develop an identity and a mission.
To establish a defense obsessed with deflections right now, before Kansas and Oklahoma States comes around, is key to success against more advanced competition, such as Pittsburgh on Monday night in Brooklyn, NY.
Right now, Tech has a defensive plan. They're emphasizing it in press conferences and on the court.
Let's see how they do against more challenging competition.
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