Red Raiders’ valiant effort not enough in Austin

Red Raiders’ valiant effort not enough in Austin

Well…at least the Texas Tech basketball team put up a fight this time. That’s all Red Raiders fans need to catch up on as Mark Adams’ team fell to 0-5 in Big 12 play with a 72-70 loss to Texas in Austin on Saturday night.

On the one hand, it was good to see this team put forth a fiery effort after Tuesday’s performance against Iowa State, which resulted in an 84-50 humbling. But on the other hand, moral victories don’t get teams into the NCAA Tournament. And after another chance for a comeback win slipped through Tech’s hands as they blew a 34-25 halftime lead, it’s becoming painfully clear that it will take a miracle for this team to make the jump to March. So here’s some of what happened in the Red Raiders’ last loss.

Fardaws plays…a lot

Let’s start with some positives. Off-season prized player Fardaws Aimaq finally made his season debut after missing months of action with a broken leg and he was surprisingly effective.

Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, there was no way to ease him back into the flow of real game action. Instead, Utah Valley transfer was asked to play 29 minutes as big man Daniel Batcho was limited to just 19 minutes due to foul trouble.

To its credit, Aimaq made a difference. Scoring 12 points and grabbing five boards in his debut, he was a good opportunity for Adams to come off the bench, and had he not been available, Tech would have been in deep trouble again.

For long stretches, especially in the first half when Tech played its best basketball of the night, Aimaq and Batcho were on the floor together, and those two near-7-foot players actually seemed to compliment each other well. Expect to see more and more of that tandem on the floor together as we go forward, because that might be when this team is at its strongest.

As any logical observer would expect, Aimaq was not Tech’s savior. He didn’t take over the game and seemed to tire, as might be expected. However, in his debut after a long layoff, he was the team’s third leading scorer (tied with Jaylon Tyson) and he certainly showed that he can help this team for the remainder of the season.

Two starters fight

Unfortunately, for this team to beat quality opponents, especially on the road, almost every starter has to be a net positive. That’s asking a lot, but so is life when you have as little margin for error as this season’s Red Raiders.

On Saturday, the problem was that two of Tech’s starters, Batcho and Kevin Obanor, both gave the team very little. As a result, Tech just didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with UT when the Horns started knocking down shots in the second half.

Before fouling out for the first time all season, Batcho had no points and just one rebound. In four Big 12 games this year, the redshirt sophomore has yet to score in double figures after doing so seven times in non-conference action.

Meanwhile, Obanor was only marginally better. Hitting just three of his eight shots (and no 3-pointers), Tech’s lone super senior was held to eight points. Even though he grabbed ten boards, he simply needs to be a more consistent offensive force for this team, which struggles to score even when Obanor is on.

So far, Obanor has had three poor performances and only two quality outings in conference play. He and Batcho both need to be consistent difference makers for Tech if this team is going to have enough firepower to win these close league games.

Critical shortage in the line

Perhaps the turning point of this game came deep in the second half, when Obanor and Aimaq combined to go 1-4 at the line on consecutive possessions. In a two-point loss, that would be pretty monumental.

At the time of the first drive to the line, Tech was down 58-55 with 3:33 left. Obanor, Tech’s leading free throw shooter at 87% entering the game, would sink both of his attempts.

Then, after a defensive stop and a technical possession that included an offensive rebound (one of 14 on the night for Tech, eight more than Texas managed) Aimaq would make just one of two shots at the stripe.

For the game, Tech was 14-20 (70%) and that would prove to not be good enough to upset the Horns. Furthermore, in this critical two-possession stretch, when Tech could have taken the lead by making free throws, Obanor and Aimaq couldn’t convert. As it were, Tech would never lead after that moment as the Red Raiders ended up chasing those three missed points for the rest of the game.

Tyson gives Tech a boost

Although it came in a losing effort, we have to acknowledge the nice game Jaylon Tyson had in his first game against his former school. After absolutely terrible outings against Oklahoma and Iowa State, Tyson scored 12 points and collected a team-high 14 rebounds, his first career double-double.

That’s the kind of effort the Red Raiders need from Tyson, who has been a starter all season. Playing all but three minutes of that game, the 6-foot-6 wing was 5-9 from the floor while showing confidence and poise with the ball in his hands.

Although he would have preferred that effort to come in a win, he had to be proud of the way he played in front of the fans who cheered for him last season – fans who were certainly hoping to see him fight his way back to Austin. . If Tech can get that kind of effort from Tyson for the rest of the year, it will do wonders for his confidence and this team’s ability to compete.

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