As the Demons called a time out, it looked for all the world like the visitors were a whipped team and that the Red Raiders would cruise to a no-sweat win. Perhaps Tech had the same thought, for Tubby Smith’s team seemingly dropped its guard, and then—Wham! Pow! Socko!—the Demons staggered the Red Raiders with a run of their own that put the game very much back into play.
After the time out, NSU slowed the game down. The Demons went into a stalling three-man weave, and then, with the shot clock running down, attacked into the paint, either converting layups or kicking to open shooters.
Tech’s on-the-ball defense was unequal to the task, and the Red Raiders compounded the situation by making several sloppy and silly turnovers. Credit, too to Northwestern State for knocking down some shots. Shots they were missing earlier.
Over the first 14:40 of the game the Demons connected on only four of 20 field goal attempts (20 percent). For the remainder of the half they hit on five of seven shots (71 percent). And for the rest of the game NSU made 19 of their 35 shots from the field (54 percent). Tech’s defense became passive and Northwestern State, it is only fair to say, made some tough shots.
By halftime the Demons had cut Tech’s 18-point bulge in two, and the score was 37-28 as the teams adjourned to the locker rooms.
Very early in the second stanza things went from concerning to downright worrisome as NSU scored the first five points, making the score 37-33 with 18:40 still to play. It was anybody’s ballgame.
Two things turned the tide back Tech’s way, however.
First, freshman forward Zach Smith seemed to say to himself, “Enough of this nonsense.” Thus, with the score uncomfortably close, he received a pass just beyond the top of the key, and like a bull charging a red cape, flew down the lane and threw home a two-handed jam to give the Red Raiders a 39-33 lead. The Demons would never seriously threaten again.
Second, Tech turned up the defensive wick. They extended their man pressure, threw in a couple of traps, and in general, forced Northwestern State out of its comfortable, leisurely pace. NSU still enjoyed some offensive success, but nowhere near the level of proficiency they demonstrated over the last several minutes of the first half and the first couple of minutes of the second.
Several Red Raiders did have good individual performances.
Randy Onwuasor had his best game of the season with 10 points, five rebounds and four assists. The same could be said for Justin Gray who also tallied 10 points and five boards. Robert Turner was his typical sparkplug self, leading Tech with 13 points, dishing out a pair of assists, and recording five steals. He also did not turn the ball over. Devaugntah Williams continues to show signs of being a legitimate deep threat. He hit three of his four three-point attempts, scored 11 points and doled out four assists.
Big man Norense Odiase got into early foul trouble, and with the game frequently a transition affair, never was a major factor. Isaiah Manderson fared somewhat better, scoring six points, grabbing five rebounds and blocking a shot. Manderson is becoming a real factor on the defensive end, altering many shots that he doesn’t block.
The Red Raiders are next in action against Air Force at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday in Lubbock.