When the current Texas Tech basketball season is through, we may well look back upon their 69-64 overtime loss to LSU as a microcosm of the season. In short, what we saw was a team that plays brilliantly in spurts, but can’t get out of its own way in others.
The ugly side of the Red Raiders made the first appearance in Baton Rouge, as LSU trotted out to six-point leads on three occasions and Tech didn’t reach double digits in points until a Robert Turner three-ball with 11:22 remaining in the half.
But that deep jumper signaled the curtains to be pulled away and for the good Red Raiders to come on stage. For the remainder of the half Tech put on a borderline clinic, particularly on offense where the Red Raiders executed half-court sets with mathematical precision. Tech scored on 12 out of its next 21 possessions and finished the half with a 36-24 lead. In a span of seven minutes and 31 seconds, the Red Raiders turned a six-point deficit into a 12-point lead on the road against a team picked to finish fourth in the SEC.
Robert Turner and Zach Smith were the catalysts for Tech’s closing rush. Turner had nine points, eight rebounds and two assists in the half; he did precious little for the remainder of the contest. Smith finished the half with 10 points and two boards.
Predictably, LSU would make a run, and it started early in the half as the tentative, bumbling Red Raiders made their return. Over the first 4:22 of the second half, Tech got one point in the form of an Isaiah Manderson free throw, and a 12-point advantage had melted to four.
Devaugntah Williams and Manderson hit consecutive jumpers to momentarily stem the tide, but LSU (2-0) inexorably closed the gap and came to within a point of the Red Raiders on a Jordan Mickey jumper with 11:56 to play.
Still, it looked like Tech (1-1) might be able to right the ship as four free throws by Williams and Smith, surrounding a Norense Odiase dunk, pushed the Red Raider advantage back to seven with 9:11 remaining.
But a pair of Keith Hornsby trifectas staggered Tech, and a Jarell Martin dunk put them on the deck at the 6:34 mark, as LSU reclaimed the lead—53-52—for the first time since midway through the first half.
But the response to the run would be the true test of the Red Raiders. And early returns were positive as a Randy Onwuasor jumper and an Odiase layup with 4:15 left to play put Tech up 57-53.
Nobody thought that that point total would be enough, but it almost was. Almost.
Tech had not scored another point, yet with 53 seconds remaining still held a 57-53 lead. Alas, the major upset proved to good to be true. A five-second violation on an in-bounds play gave the Tigers the ball and Josh Gray put it in the basket to cut the lead in half.
But Odiase’s two free throws with 37 seconds left again extended Tech’s lead to four points and a win still seemed likely. Two Gray free throws and a Tim Quarterman dunk off of an Onsuosor turnover later, however, LSU had tied the game, and a Turner three-pointer clanged harmlessly off the iron as the buzzer sounded.
It was time for overtime. And it was a foregone conclusion. The Red Raiders had shot all their bolts and the Tigers had the momentum at their backs. Tech was never really in it during the extra period and the home team coasted to victory.
The Red Raiders certainly played better than just about anybody anticipated, but in crunch time they choked away a big win. That is the simple truth. But with a team as young as this one, expect to see many similar games in the future. The real question will be at what point the Red Raiders become mentally tough enough to close out the good teams. The sooner that maturation occurs, the better Tech’s season will be.
The Red Raiders will look to bounce back against Missouri State 7:30 p.m. Saturday at United Supermarkets Arena,
Texas Tech Stumbles Late in Baton Rouge
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