It’s been two weeks since I’ve been able to attend a Texas Tech sporting event or cover anything related to the Red Raiders. Life has thrown me some unexpected twists lately and I’ve had to take some time away from the computer.
Fortunately, that all seems to be behind me and I was able to get a win in Wednesday’s loss against Houston Christian (formerly Houston Baptist). Here are some quick thoughts on the 111-67 Red Raider romp.
The attack is picking up steam.
There’s no denying that Tech’s last two games have been against teams that are vastly overrated from a talent standpoint. However, it’s refreshing to see Mark Adams’ team finally firing on all cylinders on the offensive end of the court, regardless of the opposition.
Over the past two games, Tech has averaged 106.5 points per game. This is the type of attack that should be expected against the worst opponents.
Each of the last two outings has seen the Red Raiders shoot over 55% from the floor. Additionally, the team hit 22 of 50 (44%) shots from 3-point range in those contests.
Prior to that, the Red Raiders were an average attacking team even when playing mid-to-low big teams. While no one is going to hang a banner against Jackson State or Houston Christian to post triple-digits, he’s had good results at times, even against offensive teams, where he can start a team’s offensive attack. Hopefully that’s the case for Tech too.
For the first time since Tech finished with Nicholls on Nov. 30, the Red Raiders actually had a starting five. The reason is that second striker Daniel Bacho returned to the court after being sidelined for two games due to a sprained ankle.
Although Bacho did not start the game, he played 22 minutes and scored 12 points and made 10 rebounds. It was a great showing for arguably Tech’s most irreplaceable player. But was it necessary?
With Big 12 play set to begin in about a week and a half, Batcho has risked getting back into contention and rehabilitating that ankle. Tech certainly doesn’t need him on the floor to win this game, so it might be good to sit him again and bring him back for the final pre-Big 12 tuneup on Dec. 27.
Fortunately, Bacho was unharmed when he returned to the floor. But I can’t help but think that every time he steps up, the injury may be getting closer to starting in conference play.
A sign of life from Walton?
I’ll admit that I’m excited to see signs of life from DeMorion Williams and Kerwin Walton, who Tech has been highly regarded to provide offensive firepower off the bench this year. Both have been huge disappointments so far, but each has given us glimmers of hope in the last two games.
On Wednesday, it was Walton who made his presence known. He scored eight points while making two shots from beyond the arc in 11 minutes of action.This team could use more of him off the bench.
It was the second-straight 8-point performance from Walton, a number that ties the season-opening performance against Northwestern State as the highest scoring output by a Red Raider. Could this be a sign that the North Carolina transfer is starting to find his place in this team’s rotation?
We hope so. That’s because it would do wonders for the Red Raiders to have either Walton or Williams become consistent outside shooters off the bench.
Make no mistake, their struggles have been as much offensive as defensive, and if both are permanent members of the rotation, they will need to play the type of defense Adams needs. But if Walton or Williams (who scored a team-high 17 points against Jackson State on Saturday but just two points against Houston Christian) can give this team even the slightest production in Big 12 play, that might be it. Picking up what Tech needs.
What is this group?
Watching this bloodbath, I couldn’t help but reflect on what we’ve seen from this team in eleven games and the conclusion I’ve come to is that it’s impossible to know what kind of team we have on our hands. . That’s a little scary since Big 12 play is just one game away.
The simple truth is that this year’s schedule for the trip to Maui was a shambles. Tech has only faced one ranked team so far (Creighton) and has yet to enter another team’s home arena.
In addition, close calls with mid-ranked teams like Georgetown, Nicholls, and Eastern Washington helped us worry. Now, do these last two defeats mean that this team is starting to turn a corner or is it the result of a squad that has no pulse?
Tech will be the biggest mystery in the conference when Big 12 play begins. They haven’t played a quality major-conference opponent since Thanksgiving, who knows who the Red Raiders are, even as the calendar approaches 2023. Wednesday’s bullying at HCU did nothing to change that, or next week’s showdown with South Carolina State. That’s why the game at TCU on New Year’s Eve is one of the most exciting conference openers in years.