Thoughts: Tech roars back to down 22nd ranked Nevada in OT
Texas Tech made a dramatic 10 point comeback late in regulation to ultimately defeat the 22nd ranked Nevada Wolf Pack in overtime 82-76. So, with the game in the rear view, what things stuck out from the contest? Will shares his thoughts on the game in tidibt form...
*When the Red Raiders were down by 10 with roughly 11 minutes left to go, I didn't think there was any way that they'd win this game. They were sloppy, sloppy, sloppy on offense, they were giving up too many open looks from three, and the Martin twins were hitting some shots for Nevada that Tech couldn't do anything about. It was an easy recipe for an L. But then, things changed. This team gathered themselves, settled in - and while they still made mistakes - they found ways to string together enough plays on both ends of the court to tie it. It was a team effort, too. A ton of different guys hit shots, got stops, made free throws, earned assists, etc.. The fact that they were able to win a contest where they played poorly for the majority of the game - against a tournament quality team - says a lot about this group's mentality and want to. They never wavered, never blinked. Never got their heads down. They just settled in and got to work. This win is one they can put in the back pocket as an example on how to handle adversity down the road.
*And while the team certainly played much better as a whole down the stretch, it all came on the shoulders of Keenan Evans. If you're a big time player, if you're the man and going to be a dude in the Big 12, you've got to be able to take over games and will your team to wins. The senior did exactly that. The game flipped when the offense essentially became, "Score, Keenan." Tech spread out the floor and decided to let their senior playmaker make plays. And he won them the game. Cherish getting to watch this young man play if you're a fan of the Red Raiders. He's giving it his all when he's asked to do so, and he's making really difficult plays look easy.
*In addition to Evans driving it in the lane, I really think we saw once again that - just like last year - this team is clearly at its best when the guards and wings are uber aggressive and really try to slash it in the paint. That paid off in a major way in the last five minutes of regulation and in overtime, as you got a ton of opportunities at the free throw line. I want to see Evans, the Smiths, Culver, Moretti, Gray, and Stevenson really try to slash it more instead of passing it around the arc in the motion while seeming to wait for the last 10 seconds of the shot clock like they do at times. This offense needs to be more aggressive, flat out.
*Something that I think really impacted this game late, and what may surprise some, was Davide Moretti. There was a point late in regulation where Moretti became the point guard and Evans was playing the two. This allowed Moretti's skills as a ball handler and passer to really shine. Nevada knew how good of a three point shooter he was, so they tried to take it away. Instead, Moretti started driving it, either dishing it with his great passing skills or going for layups. This is something I think can become a major weapon for this team later in the season, especially as a different way to create another avenue to get Keenan Evans opportunities off the ball on offense. Moretti clearly has more in the tank this season than I thought. Excited to see him continue to grow as clearly the future floor general of this team.
*Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver may not have had huge impacts on the game statistically through the majority of the game, but both freshmen made major plays late that were crucial in the final outcome. Both of them are still figuring things out, and they're still getting their sea legs under them, but the skill is there, and it shines through in a big way when they get chances to show it. Smith's dunk to start OT and final layup to extend the game to two possessions with 30 seconds to play were HUGE.
*I know one thing: You don't ever want to see Cody and Caleb Martin play the Red Raiders ever again. Those guys are pro-level players on the offensive end of the floor. Yes, Tech gave up too many open looks last night, but both those guys hit some extremely well-guarded shots you couldn't have guarded.
*Speaking of, you love the aggression of this Tech team defensively, but it's clear to me that teams have figured out how to take advantage of that aggression: Slash and kick outs. You love seeing the effort that guys are giving with help defense when opponents drive it into the paint, but they're leaving too many players open on the perimeter as a result. There's gonna have to be some happy medium here where off-ball defenders realize they can't leave certain guys open outside the arc while on-ball defenders do a better job manning guys up. Stephens and Caleb Martin abused Tech from three at times with open looks because of your aggressive help defense.
*Zach Smith has got to find himself offensively. He's been a shell of himself on that end of the court so far this year. Even the athletic plays at the rim haven't been there as much this fall so far. He's playing fine on the defensive end and made a GIGANTIC play with his block at the end of regulation, but on offense it feels like he's playing timid to me. He's not taking the shots he did last year on jumper and three point opportunities, and he's not as aggressive. I don't know what the deal is, but Tech flat out needs more offensive production from him as a senior veteran.