Demoralizing: Coming off an excellent second half of basketball in which Texas Tech very nearly erased a 20-point deficit and upset the Alabama Crimson Tide, there was reason for hoping this team had turned a corner and were ready to rock-and-ruin against Arizona State. Those hopes were misplaced.
The game began well enough, though. Sporting a new starting lineup of Dusty Hannahs, Josh Gray, Jamal Williams, Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert, Tech went toe-to-toe with the big Sun Devils for the first four minutes, as the score stood even at 10s.
Then the roof caved in as Arizona State rained down a hail of three point meteors that surely made the Red Raiders think the Mayan apocalypse was occurring a day late. By the time the visitors were through, they had amassed a 31-16 lead with around eight minutes to play, and any thoughts that Tech was building on the Alabama game went by the boards.
But just as the Red Raiders rallied against the Crimson Tide, so they did against the Sun Devils. Tech trailed by only six points at the half, and had multiple opportunities to close to within a bucket in the second half, but failed to do so. Arizona State made Tech pay for their multiple choke jobs and walked off with a 15-point win.
This game was Tech's last opportunity to collect a victory over a serious basketball team before Big 12 play begins. Now, regardless of what happens over the remainder of the non-conference slate, the Red Raiders will enter the conference schedule with big doubts and question marks poised over their heads.
Men of Steal: I've said it before, and I guess I'll have to say it may more times—the Red Raiders live and die by getting steals. They got nowhere near enough against ASU to win. Three steals--two by Daylen Robinson and one by Dejan Kravic, who played a great game--just isn't going to gitter dunn. The lack of steals suggests a lack of defensive intensity, which is confirmed by the fact that the Sun Devils connected on 14 of 27 three-point attempts. The Red Raiders were also repeatedly burned on the fast break, failing to get back soon enough to prevent layups. If Chris Walker hopes to collect a few Big 12 victories, he will have to find a way to motivate this team to play fiery defense for long stretches. Otherwise, this team is toast.
A Failure of Discipline: Whereas Arizona State was meticulous and efficient on the fast break, Texas Tech was slovenly and hully-gully. How hard is it for guards to understand that when you don't have numbers, you pull the ball out and run your half-court set? Josh Gray, Daylen Robinson and Trency Jackson (a combined eight turnovers and three assists) repeatedly pushed the ball in one-on-two and one-on-three situations, and the results were invariably missed shots and turnovers. Tech had 15 turnovers in this game, and I'd be willing to bet close to half of them were because of forced, bone-headed plays on the fast break. Coaches can fix this problem. Will Chris Walker?
Where Was Williams? I do not recall Jamal Williams playing in the second half. If he played at all, his minutes were minimal in the extreme. That is strange given that Williams is a mature player and a settling influence, which was much needed in a second half that saw the Red Raiders turn the rock over 11 times. Mighty strange indeed.