Unlike previous efforts this season, the Red Raiders got out of the blocks quickly on offense, and frankly, never looked back.
Robert Turner, who had been in a shooting slump, broke the ice for Tech with two straight 3-pointers to open the game. Justin Gray then took over, scoring Tech’s next seven points (most on baseline jumpers), and when he was through, the Red Raiders commanded the scoreboard 13-4 at the 16:01 mark.
Obviously, Tech’s defense was stifling, too. The Red Raiders didn’t allow the Bulldogs to reach double-digits until 12:20 to play in the half when Jalen White drained a 3-ball.
Tubby Smith, as has been his wont, two-platooned in the first half, sitting his starters and bringing in the second unit with roughly 13:30 remaining in the half and his team leading 21-6. The backups held their own, as Tech still led 26-12 when the starters filtered back onto the court. Once again, the Red Raiders’ depth was telling.
The Bulldogs would get as close as 10 points on another White trifecta with 9:13 left to play, but the Red Raiders quickly ran away and hid. By the end of the half, Tech had amassed a 53-23 lead, which was punctuated by a Devaugntah Williams floater at the final buzzer.
Tech shot 61 percent in the opening half and committed only three turnovers while dishing out a stupendous 17 assists. Except for poor free throw shooting (42 percent), it was a virtually flawless performance by the home team.
The second stanza was more of the same as the Red Raiders maintained their intensity, and the subs continued their stellar play. Everybody Smith put into the game contributed.
Tech was remarkably unselfish throughout the game and the second half, making extra passes, throwing perfect outlet passes, and working the ball inside-out in half-court sets.
The Red Raider guards were also extremely active with their hands on defense, deflecting and raking balls when they weren’t getting steals. Consequently, the Bulldogs never got anything going in their attempts to penetrate.
Tech finished the game with 28 assists and only 11 turnovers. The Red Raiders also recorded seven steals and seven blocked shots. And while Tech owned only a five-rebound advantage at halftime, they owned the second-half glass to the tune of 29-16. Individual stars were wherever you looked. In 21 minutes of play, Williams contributed 13 points, three rebounds, seven assists and five steals. Gray, displaying a faultless shooting motion, led the team in scoring with 18 points on seven-of-nine shooting. He also blocked two shots. Zach Smith was Tech’s leading rebounder with nine boards, while Turner and Isaiah Manderson chipped in 14 and 11 points respectively.
Parenthetically, Alex Foster looked better than he has all year, showing a much more aggressive demeanor. It paid off with six points, five boards and one blocked shot in 13 minutes of action.
The Red Raiders return to the court Friday night in Lubbock against Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-8)