Texas Tech 74, Mississippi State 72
* The Flex is a shout-out to Tubby Smith’s flex offense and a place for us to set some screens, make some cuts and discuss the game.
- A little too close for comfort, but it’s a win and it is the first win that Texas Tech has had away from the United Supermarkets Arena in over a year. Texas Tech did not win away from from all of last year. As mentioned on the broadcast, Mississippi State has all of these terrific athletes and 4-star players and dynamic scorers, but Texas Tech got the win and that’s all that matters. This is a solid win for Texas Tech and Mississippi State isn’t some sort of great team. Texas Tech was ranked significantly higher by KenPom, so this game was a game that I expected Texas Tech to win.
- In the second half, Mississippi State moves to a zone and Texas Tech struggled to score, going from 54% in the first half to 34% in the second half.. I hate to keep pointing this out, but Devaugntah Williams is somewhat contributing to the problem, going only 1 of 7 from the three point line and 2 of 11 from the floor in the second half. In the first half, Williams was fine, leading Texas Tech with 10 points, but he only took 2 three-point shots and was driving to the basket and creating other opportunities for himself. I understand that shooters have to shoot, but he sometimes needs to put a governor on taking so many three-point shots and try to find his teammates. If it isn’t falling, it isn’t falling. And I should add that Williams’ defensive effort was significantly better this game. He was diving for balls and making things happen. Had 3 steals on the day.
- Loved the play of the interior players. Really solid games by Zach Smith and Norense Odiase. Zach Smith had 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal. Norense Odiase had 4 points, but he had a team-leading 10 rebounds. I thought both players played some terrific defense last night. Mississippi State is a team that has some athletic scorers and generally contained them.
- We finally got to see a glimpse of the play of the freshmen, Jordan Jackson and C.J. Williamson, Jackson and Williamson had not done a ton before yesterday. In the first half, Williamson had the ball on the break and had a nifty dish to Jackson for the layup. And in the second half, Williamson was again on the break, found Aaron Ross on a nice pass (Ross didn’t score, but it was still a nice dish). Then, Jackson had a terrific dunk on a fast break, a terrific find by Devon Thomas. Just glimpses of what we might expect in the future, but they look like terrific athletes at this point and Williamson definitely has some good handles. They need to work on their jump shots, but baby steps.
- Keenan Evans had a really nice game, going 4 of 7 from the floor and scoring 13 points, to go along with 3 rebounds, an assist, and 3 turnovers. Not ideal in terms of turnovers, but he was more productive on the floor, especially scoring the ball. Most disappointing thing he did all game was miss 2 of 3 free throws when he was fouled on a three-point shot. He’s got to be an effective scorer as well as a point guard for Texas Tech.
- Toddrick Gotcher also had a good first half, making 4 of 7 shots and had 9 points. He didn’t score at all in the second half and sometimes I think that the zone stymies Gotcher to an extent. Maybe it is more accurate to say that it makes him more hesitant.
- Thanks to some solid play by the bench, the again outscored Mississippi State, 19 to 17. Aaron Ross didn’t make a shot, but he is knocking down his free throws making 5 of 6 and I thought he also had a good game on defense. He does a good job of bodying his opponent. Devon Thomas had 4 points, Isaiah Manderson had 4 points and I’ve already mentioned Williamson and Jackson. Nothing big, but they all contributed.
- Mississippi State makes a late run, with about 6 minutes left and it looked like Texas Tech might fade, but Texas Tech battled back. An Evans three-pointer tied it up at 68 and then Smith made both free throws to put Texas Tech up by 2, 70-68. Gotcher makes both of his free throws to put Texas Tech up by 4, 72-68 and then, Zack Smith’s initial layup miss, but then being able to get up off the floor as quick as he did to slam it home off the miss was as impressive a play that you’ll see. He was up the second time before Mississippi State could get back up. The Evans foul at the end of the game almost cost Texas Tech, but it’s hard to fault Evans and Smith for trying to grab the rebound.
- Justin Gray didn’t get in the game and I hope this isn’t a flare up of his injury, just precautionary. Playing two games in as many days may be too much for his knees at this point.
- Texas Tech faces Minnesota Sunday at 1:30 pm on ESPNU. Smith will play the team that fired him before taking the Texas Tech job in Minnesota:
“I’m just glad we got the win tonight,” Smith said. “It’ll be interesting to see some of the familiar faces. Richard Pitino, I’ve known him sense he was six years old. Guys like Charles Buggs and (Joey) King, kids we recruited, we know a lot of people up there. It’s good to see some familiar faces from Minneapolis. Again, it’s another game. You coach so many games, you’ve got to prepare your team and make sure they come ready to play. The incentive is to leave here 2-1 instead of 1-2.”