Texas Tech Drops Exhibition in Overtime

Texas A&M Commerce dropped Texas Tech, 72-69, in overtime Saturday night at United Supermarkets Arena.

It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the Shady Acres Retirement Home junior varsity team—if you cannot hit open jump shots (and in many cases layups) you’re not going to win. And so it was with the Texas Tech Red Raiders as they fell to Texas A&M Commerce of the Lone Star Conference, 72-69 in overtime.

The icy shooting numbers deliver an Arctic blast of reality. The Red Raiders hit 23 of 67 shots (34 percent) and two of 17 three pointers (12 percent). Over the course of their two exhibition games Tech is three-of-25 beyond the arc (12 percent), and they haven’t been playing against the ’89 Detroit Pistons either.

Toddrick Gotcher, who some view as a potential outside threat for the Red Raiders, went zero-for-five against the Lions. Robert Turner at three-of-11 wasn’t a whole lot better. Devaugntah Williams shot one-for-six. Alex Foster shot the same numbers as Williams, but all of his misses were point-blank bunnies.

Yes, the shooting was that terrible.

But there are other factors to consider before sidling out to the edge of the Tallahatchie Bridge. Chief among them is comparative experience.

The Red Raiders, it bears reiterating, are an extremely young and inexperienced team. And they were extra young against the Lions as the three players who saw the most minutes were Keenan Evans (28), Justin Gray (27) and Zach Smith (26)—true freshmen, all of them. The busiest players for the visitors, on the other hand were seniors LaDon Carnegie and Macauley Christian, and junior Anthony Adams. Indeed, 11 of the 12 players who saw action for TAMC were upperclassmen. And that does make a difference.

But despite the horrid shooting, and the experience deficit, the Red Raiders showed moxie and very nearly won the game. Tech trailed by 10 points with 8:36 to play, and were down seven with only a few minutes remaining before staging a furious rally to put the game into overtime.

Zach Smith’s two free throws with only seconds left were the clinching points. The rally was also aided inestimably by a couple of Justin Gray jumpers, a trifecta by Keenan Evans and another by Smith. When the Red Raiders actually hit a few jump shots, they came to life and were the better team.

Unfortunately Tech against froze up in overtime. During the extra period the Red Raiders struggled terribly in their half court sets, even to get good looks. The Lions, on the other hand, played their best basketball and scored 11 points in those final five minutes. And that was more than enough to net the win.

Despite the somewhat disconcerting loss, there were signs of hope for the future.

Down the stretch, in crunch time, it was the freshmen Evans, Smith and Gray who were on the court. Gray, who is clearly a skilled player, led Tech with 14 points and five rebounds. Smith was a major defensive presence with three blocked shots and a steal to go along with five rebounds. And Evans chipped in 11 points on five-of-nine shooting, five rebounds and three steals. He is a ferocious defender, either on the ball or in denial. This trio, along with big Norense Odiase will be forces for Tech. And the quicker they grow up, the sooner the Red Raiders will become a formidable team.

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