Turning Point? The Red
Raiders, predictably, looked dead in the first half against Alabama. Rigor
mortis set in early in the second half as the Crimson Tide led 53-33 with 13:56
to play. But somewhere en route to the morgue, the Tech corpse,
Frankenstein-style, revived itself, and threw a dreadful fright into the
visitors from Tuscaloosa.
The Red Raiders, relying on ferocious man-to-man defense,
and some clutch shooting on the offensive end, shaved 18 points off the Alabama
lead, before falling 66-62. That second half was easily the best stanza of
basketball this Tech team has played, and it came against a solid SEC team that
will probably make the NCAA tournament.
But Chris Walker and this team must make that comeback
count. Hopefully having gained some confidence, the Red Raiders must now play
an entire game as they played in the second half against Alabama. If they can
figure out how to do that, and do it consistently, this team could make some
The season is still young. And if the Alabama second half
was this team’s meshing point, Tech will have a better season that expected.
But Arizona State this Saturday will be the acid test. If the Red Raiders
falter in that one, the second half performance against the Crimson Tide will
have been nothing but a false echo on the radar.
Time? Sometimes a team improves most dramatically when the coach, having sussed out who can contribute and who cannot, shortens his
bench. Only productive players see the court. And minutes that hitherto went to
unproductive players are no longer wasted. Chris Walker May be at this point.
The players who appear headed for pine time are Dejan Kravic, Trency
Jackson and Dusty Hannahs.
Kravic doesn’t have the lower body
strength to stand in against physical bangers, nor the hand strength to control
rebounds. Compounding matters, he is mechanical offensively in the box. Kader Tapsoba, who rebounds well and hits his free throws, is the
Jackson is simply too much of a liability on the offensive
end. His shot selection is not good, his shooting eye is questionable, and he
does not create opportunities for his teammates. I like Toddrick
Gotcher, who is a great hustler and who does not make
mistakes on offense, to get Jackson’s minutes.
Hannahs has a scholarship for one
reason—to hit the deep shot. Right now he simply is not doing that. Ty Nurse shoots at least as well as Hannahs and has much
more experience. He can help Tech win right now; I don’t see how Hannahs can.
The Reason for the
Comeback: I’ve been saying it all along, and the Alabama game was the
ultimate proof, but the Red Raiders will live or die by their pressure defense.
In the first half Tech got only two steals, scored only 27 points, and allowed
the Crimson Tide to score 43. In the second, the Red Raiders tripled their
steal total, scored 35 points, and held Alabama to 23 points. Steals not only
generate fast break points for Tech, they blunt possessions by the opposition.
This is critical for a Red Raider team that is not big enough to be
intimidating on the back line, and does not have an array of pure shooters to
put up 70-plus points consistently in the half court set.