*As I watched the Red Raiders for the first 17-and-a-half minutes of the game with Incarnate Word, I said to myself that Texas Tech’s defense has finally clicked into place. The Red Raiders were doing everything right. They were playing help-side, they were choking passing lanes and getting steals, they—well, Zach Smith, anyway—were blocking shots, they were beating players to spots, they were bodying up, and they were cleaning the defensive glass. In consequence, Tech amassed a 24-point lead that was approaching insurmountable.
Unfortunately, the Red Raiders managed to squander 11 points of that hard-won advantage before halftime, and allowed the Cardinals to close to within eight early in the second half.
But that comparatively brief dead zone should not obscure the positive developments on defense. For the first time in Chris Beard’s short tenure on the High Plains, we saw the future. At some point, and it may be sooner rather than later, the Red Raiders will play that stifling defense for a full 40 minutes or close to it, and when that happens they will constrict opposing teams and make them miserable.
There are differences between Beard’s defensive philosophy and that of West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, but the end results should be much the same. Beard did great things with the players he had at Arkansas-Little Rock, but with this Tech team he has a few athletes who are on a higher level. Once this thing gets to rockin’ and rollin’, it will be a sight to behold.
*In observing Texas Tech and Incarnate Word, there was a fairly obvious height disparity, even without Aaron Ross and Norense Odiase suited out. But equally clear was the fact that the Red Raiders were much thicker. Just in terms of musculature it was easy to see which team belonged to a Power 7 conference, and which to a mid-major. That’s not meant as an insult to Incarnate Word; it is simply a statement of fact. And Tech’s advantage in terms of height and physical strength no doubt aided the Red Raiders on the defensive end, where they forced 22 turnovers, and on the glass, where they finished with a 10-rebound advantage.
*You’ve just got to love Justin Gray’s game. For a guy who plays as hard as he does, Gray also plays with tremendous poise and control, particularly on offense. He knows when to pull up, and when to take it to the cup. He knows when to pass and when to shoot. You just don’t see him make many mistakes. Gray is a smooth, polished, and well-schooled player.