Texas Tech powered past Central Arkansas 79-57, but Tubby Smith is still figuring out which buttons to push and which levers to pull to get the Red Raiders firing on all cylinders.
Hence, for the third straight game, Tech got off to a very slow start. Against UT-San Antonio, the Red Raiders led by only four points with nine minutes to play in the first half. Facing Arizona, Tech swiftly fell behind by 10 points and never really climbed out of the hole. And against Central Arkansas, the Red Raiders spotted the Bears a 6-0 lead, didn't score until three minutes elapsed from the game clock, and didn't gain their first lead until 10:44 remained in the first half. Given that this is the same CAU team that lost to Arkansas State by 43 points, that is not a good sign.
A big part of Smith's problem is that he never knows which players are going to show up and has to spend at least a quarter of the game figuring out the answers. Outside of Jaye Crockett, who is as reliable as they come, there are no truly consistent performers on this team.
Dusty Hannahs, who started but played only 13 minutes against the Bears, has had a couple of good games, but more often than not, has been ineffective. Robert Turner started the season very well, but has been in a bit of a funk lately. Jordan Tolbert dominates one moment and disappears the next. Freshmen Randy Onwuasor, Alex Foster and Aaron Ross are still Dow Jonesers. The same goes for veterans Toddrick Gotcher and Jamal Williams who don't have inexperience as an excuse. And Dejan Kravic had his first double-digit scoring game of the season against CAU. Outside of Crockett, Kader Tapsoba, who has steadily improved, may be the team's most consistent player.
At this point, Tubby Smith is throwing darts and hoping they find the bull's-eye. He was wide of the mark against the Bears. After a lethargic and bumbling start in which the Red Raiders struggled to execute simple passes, Smith inserted his second unit at the 15:12 mark of the first half, with Tech trailing 6-4. Two and a half minutes later, he reinserted the first team with CAU holding an 11-6 advantage.
It wasn't until Luke Adams hit the floor with about 10:00 minutes left in the half that the Red Raiders showed some spark. Adams corralled a couple of steals and dished out an assist in a brief span, and Tech ran off seven straight points on layups by Gotcher and Crockett and a three-bomb by Gotcher. Tech led 19-16 with 8:26 remaining in the half.
Still, the Bears weren't about to go away quietly. They retook the lead 22-21 on an Aubrey Ball three-pointer with 6:38 to play in the opening stanza, but that would be CAU's final lead. The Red Raiders closed the half with a flurry and led at the break 39-26.
Unfortunately, Tech opened the second half as slowly as the first. The Red Raiders allowed the Bears to rip off an 8-0 run, which cut Tech's advantage to 39-34 with 17:19 to play.
It was at this point that Dejan Kravic took over. He began by hitting a pair of free throws. He followed them with a layup spawned by an Onwuasor steal and a nice Gotcher dish. Kravic connect on another layup after a Jamal Williams pass and nailed two more freebies with 15:25 to play. Kravic's eight straight points staked Tech to a permanent double-digit lead. And Tubby Smith's second unit, which did nothing in the first half, extended Tech's lead from 39-31 at the 17:37 mark to 53-37 with 11:35 remaining.
In addition to Kravic and the ever-reliable Crockett, Toddrick Gotcher had an excellent game. He finished with 10 points on four-of-five shooting, collected two rebounds and two steals, while dishing out five big assists.
The Red Raiders next action is against LSU at 8:00 central time in Lubbock on Wednesday the 18th.
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