Misfiring Red Raiders Overcome Frogs

Texas Tech defeated TCU 60-54 Saturday at United Spirit Arena to sweep the season series, but it wasn't easy. The undermanned Horned Frogs led most of the game before seniors Dejan Kravic and Jaye Crockett took over.

The 2013-14 Texas Tech Red Raiders hadn't seen a zone defense all season that they didn't carve up like a Thanksgiving ham. Until today.

Trent Johnson's TCU Horned Frogs came out in a zone defense, stuck with it to the end, and frustrated the Red Raiders with it badly enough to attain an eight-point lead with 15:42 to play before ultimately falling to Tech by a 60-54 count.

Tech (11-11 overall, 3-6 in Big 12) , a 34-percent 3-point-shooting team, lobbed up 16 treys against the Frogs and connected on exactly one of them. That's a six-percent success rate, folks. Even deadeye assassin Dusty Hannahs went one for six from deep. But many of Hannah's attempts were forced and arrhythmic. Few of them were in the context of the offense and it showed.

But as is sometimes the case when a team is shooting poorly, the defense rises to the occasion and bails the team out. So it was with the Red Raiders, who played man-to-man primarily, and held the Frogs to 45-percent shooting. More important, they harassed TCU (9-11, 0-8) into 20 turnovers while committing only 12 themselves. Prior to this game, Tech's best turnover creation in a conference game was 13 versus Texas. Only Central Arkansas (25 turnovers) has coughed up the rock more against the Red Raiders.

From an offensive standpoint, however, this was an ugly performance by Tech for most of the game. The Red Raiders mustered only 27 points in the first half, although they did manage a respectable 10 assists.

The effective absence of second leading scorer Jordan Tolbert certainly didn't help matters. Like clockwork, Tolbert picked up an unnecessary foul early (15:05) and was on the court only six of the first 20 minutes. With the Red Raiders struggling from the perimeter, the loss of an interior scoring threat was the last thing the team needed. Tolbert finished the half, and the game, with four points. The funk continues.

Tech's salvation came in the form of Jaye Crockett's customary solid play, and a big effort from big man Dejan Kravic.

Crockett stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, six boards, five assists, two blocked shots and a pair of steals. His consistent play kept the Red Raiders reasonably close until the offense finally began clicking late in the game.

With 1:58 to play and Tech clinging to a tenuous 53-51 lead, Crockett's missed front end of a one-and-one looked to be a possible killer, but the defense didn't buckle and Crockett redeemed himself by knocking down a pair of freebies to give Tech an insurmountable eight-point cushion with 0:24 remaining on the clock.

Kravic—surprise, surprise—performs better the more aggressively he plays. He has become more aggressive as the season has worn on, and really had both Colts blazing against TCU. Then again, the Frogs were without 6-foot-10 post player Karviar Shepherd and Kravic often enjoyed a major size advantage over his defender.

Never mind, though—Kravic and Tech will take the breaks however they can get them. And for Kravic, that meant 18 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. The interior passing of both Kravic and Crockett down the stretch proved to be the key to unlocking TCU's stubborn zone defense.

Toddrick Gotcher turned the ball over four times, but made amends with a team high eight boards in a game where the Red Raiders were actually outboarded by two.

Tech gets a week off to prepare for the Oklahoma State Cowboys who will be in Lubbock for a Saturday night special next weekend.

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