A win is a win, and the three game losing streak is now a thing of the past. I watched this game on my blurry laptop screen, so take my analysis for what it's worth, which is even less than usual, if that's possible.
Coming into this game, we were notorious for slow starts. Tech zoned us early and Lacey made them pay by knocking down some early 3's. We jumped out to an 8-0 lead and was able to cruise through most of the first half. The starting lineup was Releford, Lacey, Randolph, Cooper, and Pollard. It's a small lineup, but if you believe in putting your best 5 players on the floor regardless of size or position, this is probably the way to go. We had great ball movement in the first half that led to a lot of open shots. For those who complain "we do nothing but stand around the perimeter and pass the ball around against the zone," this is exactly what we are trying to accomplish. It worked tonight for 2 reasons: 1) We executed much better. We had good spacing and did not hold the ball for too long at a time. The idea is to stretch the zone, and anticipate the next pass as you are receiving the current one. The defense will have to rotate to the side of the ball, when you reverse it to the weak side, you should be able to get an open shot. 2) Tech was not very active in their zone. They were slow to rotate and slow to close out on our shooters.
Defensively, we started out in a zone as well to compensate for our lack of size inside. Texas tech cooperated by trying to get into a 3 point shooting contest with us. As I mentioned above, Lacey was making his shots, Tech didn't have anybody who could shoot. We cruised to a 43-27 halftime lead that we would stretch to 20 early in the second half.
I don't know if the team thought the game was over, if Coach Grant thought the game was over, or what happened, but we absolutely sucked the last 14 minutes or so of that game. Texas Tech deserves some credit for making the necessary adjustments to get back into the game. They switched to a man to man defense, playing our guards close and soft on everybody else. We responded by taking the air out of the ball. We may as well have been running the 4 corners the last 12 minutes of the game. Every possession we ran the shot clock down to 5 or less, at times passing on decent shots. Maybe Coach Grant felt that with the big lead and a limited roster it was best to limit possessions, but the forced shots as the shot clock expires, the shot clock violations, the turnovers, 5 and 10 second calls, are getting tiresome. It was an 8 minute scoring drought that is becoming all too common these days.
At the other end, Tech finally stopped jacking up 3's and took advantage of our weakness in the post by attacking the basket. Gueye did get some rebounds, but he also picked up a ton of fouls and is frankly, a huge liability at this point. Nick Jacobs had a better game overall, but he doesn't play defense and one rebound out of a power forward in 21 minutes of playing time is not going to cut it. Devonta Pollard had a very good game and seems to be progressing nicely. It's not really fair to him, but we are going to need him to play more inside, even though he doesn't really have the necessary bulk, he can get some rebounds for us with his height and athleticism.
Rodney Cooper struggled and played most of the night in foul trouble. Dakota Slaughter came in off the bench in the first half to relieve him, and did a decent job of at least giving us some minutes. Releford did a nice job down the stretch of getting to the line and knocking down some free throws, but his assist to turnover ratio is not what I would hope for. The whole team turned the ball over too much on the dribble drive in the second half.
On the bright side, we were able to withstand the run with the momentum against us to hold on for the win. Levi had a huge shot to put us back up by 2 scores in the final minute. We made the plays when we had to and hopefully this will give the team some confidence.
Up next, the Mercer Bears come to Coleman Coliseum for a 1pm tipoff Saturday. It seems like we play them almost every year, and they are usually one of the better teams in their conference. They are 6-6 with a win on the road over Florida State, but also with some embarrassing blowout losses to Illinois-Chicago and Denver. The game will be televised on CSS if you can't make it to Tuscaloosa.