Disorganization 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 losses.
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.
Defensive 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.
Free Throw 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 great regularity.
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 arpeggios.