*After a bit of a shaky start, Texas Tech found its sea legs and proceeded to run away from Longwood, winning 91-60. There is much to like about the win, particularly on offense and in terms of rebounding, but warning bells are beginning to sound about Tech’s defense.
The Longwood Lancers, a team that shouldn’t bother the Red Raiders in Lubbock unless they managed to suit up five Jerome Kerseys, shot 47 percent against Tech, and 40 percent from beyond the arc. Note also that Longwood played without three starters.
Prior to the Longwood game the Red Raiders were No. 36 nationally in field goal percentage defense, but honestly, the relatively low level of competition has done a great deal to produce that statistic. All too often this year Tech’s defense has appeared slow and lethargic. Close-outs on perimeter shooters have been unsatisfactory, and transition defense has been inconsistent, although it does seem to have improved somewhat.
Longwood was an undermanned team, but they further exposed ongoing problems that could prove fatal in Big 12 play.
*Texas Tech has now concluded nonconference play, and owns an 11-1 record. One perhaps should feel good about this team, but I’m feeling a mite uneasy. The fact is that the Red Raiders have rarely been challenged by a succession of weak opponents. They’ve generally amassed comfortable leads in the first half and then cruised to victory on autopilot.
But what will happen to this team when confronted by teams that have the ability to lay the Red Raiders out in the first several minutes of a game? Virtually every Big 12 team is capable of doing that.
Texas Tech, with 12 games in the book, is still an enigma. This nonconference schedule has not been tough enough to provide a good diagnosis, let alone prognosis.
On the one hand, there are several Big 12 veterans on the roster who’ve been through the conference wars and know fully what to expect. Perhaps they will compel the team to elevate its overall play.
On the other hand, no two teams are alike. The current Red Raiders are quite different from last year’s NCAA tournament squad. And with the Big 12 as tough as it’s ever been, there is no certainty whatsoever about how Texas Tech will fare in it.
*Here’s an interesting stat: at halftime of the Longwood game Texas Tech had a grand total of four turnovers and two personal fouls. The Red Raiders played exceptionally sound basketball in most phases of the game.
*Longwood head coach Jayson Gee compared Texas Tech favorably with No. 9 Creighton, a team that defeated Longwood earlier in the season. He said that Creighton has “a very special point guard” (presumably Maurice Watson), but that he really likes Tech’s size and depth.
*Chris Beard, in discussing his team’s rebounding prowess, noted that it comes with a catch. To rebound well, he must play big players, but unfortunately, the Red Raiders don’t defend as well with a big lineup as they do with a smaller unit. A crucial next step for Tech, therefore, will be playing better defense when the big guys are on the court.