Mental Meltdown: Folks will doubtless inveigh against the officiating in Texas Tech's latest loss to the University of Texas (I'll send my hernia, psychotherapy and ulcer bills to the zebras), but the Red Raiders have nobody but themselves to blame for this one. Tech did a lot right against the Horns, but shooting 54 percent from the free throw line undoes a great deal of good.
And that stat actually understates how rancid the Red Raiders were from the charity stripe. In the second half and the overtime period, when the Longhorns were chipping away and the pressure was increasing, Tech shot a putrid 50 percent from the line. That's right, the Red Raiders went 14 of 28 and were a ghastly two of six in the overtime period. This is a problem that has worsened as the season has progressed, and it ultimately cost Tech a win over the detested visitors from Austin.
It really seemed like the easier the play, the worse the Red Raiders finished it in this one. Not only did Tech wilt at the free throw line, they spit the bit when shooting a variety of bunnies (easy shots—no need to call the SPCA), too. Jaye Crockett, who otherwise had a very good game, blew a couple of layups, Jamal Williams and Dejan Kravic did too, and Josh Gray fumbled away a gimme as well.
You've got to say this loss was mental more than physical. The Red Raiders physically played themselves a whale of a game, but collapsed mentally when the going got tough.
The Missing Zone: The Red Raiders played a very good defensive first half. They harassed the Horns into 33-percent shooting and forced nine Texas turnovers in holding the visitors to 30 points. A key was the constantly switching defenses, which confused the Longhorns. Tech's zone has not been very effective this season, but it really seemed to bother Texas in that opening stanza. Unfortunately, we didn't see a great deal of it in the second half. I wish we'd seen more.
The Turning Point: Credit Longhorn coach Rick Barnes with the tactical move that altered the game in his favor. Soon after the Red Raiders bolted to a 34-17 lead, Texas went into a full-court press and trapping half-court defense that thoroughly disrupted Tech's offensive rhythm. The Longhorn defense didn't force many turnovers—the Red Raiders committed only 12 on the afternoon—but they sped the game up and made Tech uncomfortable on offense.
The results? The Red Raiders scored only one field goal over the final 5:29 of the first half and didn't get their first bucket of the second half until 6:20 had elapsed. During that period, Tech's 17-point lead melted away completely.
Hog Butchered? The Harley Davidson that had chauffeured Raider Red onto the USA court prior to pregame intros this season was conspicuously absent against the Horns. The Austinites have banned plastic and paper bags from their local grocery stores. Could they have extended their Leviathan powers to Lubbock to prevent their players from being exposed to second-hand Hog smoke? Naaaaaah. Surely not! This is America.
Odd Substitution Patterns: Over the course of the entire season, I've noticed that Chris Walker frequently subs for a player who has just made a good play. The most conspicuous instant of this move in the Texas game was Walker pulling Jamal Williams very soon after he grabbed a steal and fed Jaye Crockett for a scintillating ally oop slam to give Tech a 29-17 lead.
Mystifying are the ways of the genius to the pedestrian mind, I suppose.
KT? Could Kader Tapsoba have cleaned up some of the defensive glass the Red Raiders were not getting (the Horns grabbed 17 offensive boards)? We'll never know; he played a whopping one minute.