A New Formula: Since Big 12 play began, it has become abundantly clear that the Red Raiders don't have the offensive firepower to blow away the opposition. Tech has only one shooter (Dusty Hannahs) and no consistent post scoring threat. Relatedly, Tech cannot count on Josh Gray to collect six or seven steals against Big 12 point guards and thereby catalyze the offense. A new approach was needed if this team was to become competitive.
We saw what that approach will look like in Tech's surprisingly close 60-46 loss to the number six Kansas Jayhawks. The Red Raiders trailed by only two at halftime and basically kept the score respectable by playing very scrappy half-court defense and crashing the glass like a horde of Mongols.
Tech outrebounded Kansas 26-25, led in that category 16-8 at halftime, and blanked the Jayhawks on the glass 5-0 until 11:44 remained in the first half. The Red Raiders also held Kansas to a very respectable 46 percent from the floor.
This formula is what Tech must employ for the remainder of the season. The question is, can Chris Walker coax this sort of effort from the team on a regular basis.? If he can, several more wins could be in the offing.
A Consequence: In order to defeat the bigger Jayhawks on the boards, Chris Walker sent every Red Raider to the glass. This approach obviously worked well in the first half, but in the second the Jayhawks leaked out for numerous fast break layups and dunks because no Red Raider was in a position to get back on defense. This is a pill Tech will simply have to swallow whenever they fail to sweep the defensive glass.
Patience Most Definitely a Virtue: The contrast between this game and the Baylor debacle could not have been more stark. Against the Bears, the Red Raiders fell into the rotten rut of heaving up terrible shots—many of them from three-point country—very early in the shot clock. Indeed, 41 percent of Tech's attempts were three-pointers, and suffice it to say a great many of them came less than 10 seconds after crossing midcourt.
Against Kansas, contrariwise, the Red Raiders attempted only 11 three-pointers (21 percent of their total shots), made a solid 36 percent, and routinely took shots with less than 10 seconds remaining on the clock. Now a partial explanation of this phenomenon is that finding shots against the KU defense is extremely difficult. Even still, the Red Raiders resisted the temptation to hurl up bad and rushed shots. This is a better way of doing business.
Dirty Dusty: Credit every Red Raider who played with putting forth good effort on the defensive end. But Tech's best defender—surprisingly—may have been Dusty Hannahs. He was credited with no steals—the Red Raiders as a team had only three—but he hustled like a mad man, got his hands on a few passes, and played very sound, sticky defense. Pure shooters are often defensive liabilities. Hannahs looks like he won't fit that mold.
Wrong-way Jaye: In non-conference play, Jaye Crockett was clearly Tech's best player. But Big 12 competition has done him no favors. In conference play, Crockett is connecting on a mere 35 percent of his shots (down from 54 percent), and his rebounding average has declined from 8.2 to 4.7. Crockett was a woeful one of eight from the field against Kansas, and a few of those misses were open, in-rhythm jumpers. Crockett has clearly lost his confidence. The Red Raiders need him to regain it because he has talent and skill this team cannot afford to do without.