Quick background on this postgame recap today, and why it may be a little more personal for me than other games on the schedule. I was born in Louisville, KY and have followed the Cardinals (AND Kentucky Wildcats) men’s basketball team from a young age. At one time you could call me a fan of both teams, until I stepped foot on the campus at Texas Tech University and found a new team to call my own in 2001. I have family over in Kentucky and have always yearned for our Red Raiders to battle UofL & UK on the basketball court. This season, my wish came true and we got slated to play them BOTH!
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Player of the Game | Got to give this one to the man Avery Benson. He sparked life into this team with his hustle and heart, and came out with force in the first half. Tech looked like the team that wanted it more than the Cards; and it was Benson that showed all you have got to do is fight for every ball and every rebound.
When you play the #1 team on national TV in Madison Square Garden you have to use everything in the tank to get it accomplished. Benson scored 10 points and hit every shot from the field he put up. That’s how you do it! He was also excellent on defense adding some incredible blocks that Louisville could not believe.
Moro finished with 18 points, but struggled with his shooting… except from the free throw line. He was a perfect 8-8 when it counted. And, you also need that to beat the #1 team in the nation.
Stat of the Game | This game was not pretty, and Tech has struggled with their shots all season. This game was no different in the struggle to find the shots, but we hit them when they counted.
Holding Louisville to only making 34% from the field and 3-18 from downtown (16.7%) was key to winning. The Cardinals are a hot shooting team, and can catch fire from the outside… yet, never did that tonight. Credit our Texas Tech defense and hurrying up the Cards to take looks from beyond the arc that they did not feel comfortable with. Nwora only made 1-7 from downtown, and McMahon was 2-7 from the outside – that is the stat of the game that kept us out in front for most of it. Moro was 2-10 from three point land, but luckily Louisville was worse from out there than us.
How the Game was Won | Toughness, grit, and determination from our players was the main point of emphasis going into the game… and you could tell throughout the entire way that Tech has the underdog mentality in this one. When you play ultra aggressive you are going to run into foul trouble (which Texas Tech did), though we were not playing out of control.
Holyfield and Shannon were in foul trouble for most of the night, but we needed them to play with that passion and strength to keep the game from running away from us. It was rough, but awesome to watch us keep a bigger and stronger team in Louisville from pounding us.
In a little bit, I’ll get into the past troubles this season with our frontcourt… yet, Coach Beard has recognized this and was teaching our team how to play together and when to double team inside. Our lack of size did not matter in this game, we were keeping the ball outside the paint and not letting them dump the ball down low for easy baskets. Because the Cards were not being a threat from the outside we could keep playing our way with our smaller roster and contain them from tearing it up with easy buckets. There were a few breakdowns, but for the most part we did our job and challenged the ball when it came inside the perimeter.
Turning Point | With about 2 minutes and 30 seconds left in the game TJ Shannon hit a very nice mid-range jumper on a beautiful pass from Holyfield. It was at that moment we went up by double digits to lead 58-48 and you just had the felling that we had this game in hand. The fouling started and Tech keep their cool and made most of their free throws to keep Louisville from having any sort of miracle comeback.
Team Observations |
- I have been extremely critical of the frontcourt this season. A concern of mine going into the schedule was how we were going to make up the dynamic duo at the starting 4 & 5 position after losing the aggressive powerhouse of Odiase and Owens. I was optimistic that Holyfield would be a gritty inside presence and that another guy on the roster could also be put in the frontcourt as a bulldog to fight for rebounds and plug the paint. After the Iowa game, I started top question who could take on the responsibility to captain the frontcourt…. but, it looks like Coach Beard and staff has figured it out. It will be a frontcourt by committee. We are going to have to play bigger than our opponent in the paint by crashing and double teaming when we can. The ball deflections and hands being waved to slow the passes were just amazing to see. We were ready for this one tonight!
- Edwards has struggled to find his shooting touch all season. I had high hopes for him coming off his frosh year, but he has not been getting the open looks that he did last season when some of the other key players around him helped him out there. Tonight he was definitely not lights out, and only went 1-7 from the outside. But, he made the big shots when we needed them; and sometime that is all you can ask for to win the game.
- Moro is also one who has encountered problems without a strong supporting cast around him. In the first part of the season, I thought Moro would be the undisputed leader and floor general we all needed to pull this young squad together. It hasn’t always happened that way in the games that we have had to fight an uphill battle on the scoreboard. His shot was not falling, but he stuck to his guns and made a few big threes to kill the Louisville momentum. Shooters shoot! He may be a soft spoken leader, but we need him in to lead this team if we are going to come away with signature victories like tonight.
- Chris Clarke is not flashy and maybe too unselfish along the game sometimes, but he involves his teammates. This team is not going to be able to win without the whole squad coming together and playing as one unit. Clarke understands this, and he also looked for a few opportunities to take the drives and shots himself in this game than we have seen from him so far. He and the roster are developing and using our strengths to their advantage. Clarke grabbed 12 boards, and those rebounds were crucial to us keeping Louisville from getting easy second chance points. That is going to need to happen all season long.
- Chris Bead out-coached Chris Mack in Madison Square Garden and had his team fired up. Mack lost his temper and got a technical as his frustrations started to spill over to the officials. Texas Tech had the smaller team, and Louisville did not know how to take advantage. We had more heart and energy, and played like true Red Raiders tonight out on the court.
- After a rough 3 game losing streak, we go out and punch the #1 undefeated team in the country right in the jaw on national TV in the Jimmy V Classic. Don’t worry Texas Tech fans, the Red Raiders are still on the map in college basketball and are not going away anytime soon. It’s going to be a fun ride all season long. Let’s celebrate this victory tonight and get ready to keep battling all the way back into the NCAA tourney. Can;’t wait to watch it all unfold. Wreck ’em Tech!
We encourage you to watch these highlights, and then watch them again. Maybe a third time. Go crazy.
— Texas Tech Basketball (@TexasTechMBB) December 11, 2019
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— Texas Tech Basketball (@TexasTechMBB) December 11, 2019