Strikes Deep: It happens in virtually every conference game. When is hard
to predict. But you always know it’s just a matter of time before the Red
Raiders come apart at the seams.
Against Iowa State it happened with one minute remaining in
the first half. Tech managed to stay composed for eight minutes longer in
Manhattan, Kansas. But in both cases the results were the same—20-point
It is painful, almost ghastly to watch. The beginning of the
end, as tonight against Kansas State, almost always comes on the offensive end.
The Red Raiders, ultimately collapsing before the unremitting onslaught of
pressure defense, begin playing harum scarum basketball. They commit silly turnovers and take
sillier shots, which result in leak outs for the opposition, easy buckets, and
practically like clockwork, three-point plays.
Once the offense disintegrates, the defense follows suit.
The Red Raiders lose all defensive balance and presence. Huge gaps bloom in the
defense, which the opposition exploits with ease. Tech fails to get back on
defense, and the cavalcade of dunks and layups ensues.
Boiled down, the team becomes hopelessly disorganized. It
loses all integrity. In short, it doesn’t really resemble a team so much as a
collection of guys vaguely gesturing at something called basketball.
Improvement: As wearisome as the loss to KSU was, at least there was a
certain measure of defensive improvement. The Red Raiders had been allowing 82
points per game over their last four outings but held the Wildcats to a
semi-respectable 75 points. The key to this improvement, without doubt, was
perimeter defense. From the very outset it was clear that Tech was emphasizing
guarding the three. Kansas State simply got very few open looks from outside,
and lo and behold, it seems contesting shooters actually works! Hence, the
Wildcats made only three of 16 attempts beyond the arc.
Deterioration: One area that did not improve was free throw shooting. The
Red Raiders were merely horrid in their previous two games. Against Kansas
State they declined to pathetic, connecting on only six of 12 charity shots.
It’s pretty sad when a Big 12 team shoots free throws worse than your average
high school squad, but there you have it.
Making the Tough
Shots: One of the keys to Tech’s success over the first 27 minutes and
their failure over the last 13 was “tough shot” proficiency. To succeed
offensively at this level of basketball, a team simply must make a fair number
of difficult shots. Wide open looks will not come with
For most of the game, the Red Raiders, Dejan Kravic, Jordan Tolbert and Dusty Hannahs in particular, did a great job of knocking down
strongly contested shots. Hands in the face, mitts on the rock, body contact down low—it didn’t matter. These guys
were putting ‘em up softly and getting them to roll
home. And the game was basically even.
But once the Midas touch deserted the Red Raiders, and the
Kansas State lead swelled to five points, the aforementioned disorganization
set in and the gravitationally enhanced adult female began going through her