The Red Raiders hosted UTEP in a scrimmage at the USA on Thursday. Usually we shouldn’t take the result into account, as last year’s squad almost lost to San Angelo State, but typically we get some indication on what might happen.
That being said, these are overreactions. Some thing said come true, like Keenan’s ability to take the game over, and others don’t stack up, like Tommy Hamilton IV looking lost and Zhaire and Culver looking a little bit raw.
We also get a look at some of the newcomers and how much the returners have improved over the offseason. We saw some questions answered about Mooney and Owens, and everyone’s favorite local athlete, Jarrett Culver.
The final score was Texas Tech 85, UTEP 61. We don’t have a recap or box score as of now, but I’ll post that whenever I see they become available (if they do become available). So let’s overreact about how the scrimmage went:
- Jarrett Culver is ready to make a huge leap. He was arguably the third best player for the Red Raiders last season behind Evans and Zhaire, the he should be the best player for Tech this season. Culver took over the game at moments, was aggressive in attacking the basket, and displayed great range on the outside. Not only that, he looks stronger and will be able to guard multiple positions. He finished the game with a double-double in points and rebounds, and led the team in scoring. Can’t wait to see what he does this year
- Brandone Francis has always been interesting because he was a Top 40 recruit in high school. He looked like it tonight with a hot shooting hand and making wise decisions offensively. Francis showed some good defense as well, as did most of the team. He finished the game with double digit points. If this game mean anything, it means expect scoring from Francis.
- Davide Moretti got the start, but was probably the third best guard on the floor for the Red Raiders. He didn’t really make many shots, but he looked more aggressive than last year and had some great passes, including a behind the back pass at the end of the first half. Started off slow, but turned on the scoring in the second half. Best play was a shot fake followed by a mid range jumper in the 2nd half
- Norense Odiase looks like the same ole Norense Odiase. Grabbing rebounds down low and being dominant defensively. The biggest change was that he was guarding players on the outside well. He finished the game with a double-double and was the third leading scorer behind Francis and Culver. If he can switch onto small players well, watch out Big 12.
- Malik Ondigo doesn’t look like a huge impact player this game. He had a few drawn charges like Justin Gray did a season ago, but not a real big threat around the post. Going to need more from him this year.
- Avery Benson played some minutes. Nothing real notable from him. He was redshirted last season.
- Matt Mooney was real passive early on. There’s were a couple shots he could’ve taken, but instead passed the ball. That could be a good or bad thing. On the bright side, on pass was to Culver, who was attacking the rim. There were other times where it looked like he had an open or good shot driving to the rim, but passed it when he didn’t need too. I think he needs to shoot the ball more. His best play was a deep three isolation with a defender on him. He probably led the team in assists tonight, but I’m not sure. Hopefully he has that range come 2019.
- Tariq Owens really had a tale of two halves. I was very disappointed with the first half, as he looked a little lost and uncoordinated at times, and seems a little weak around the basket. The second half was much better, as he had a huge block and attacked the rim with authority. The play of day altogether came from an ally oop from Mooney where he flew way up in the air and threw it down on a guy. Maybe he was just getting some jitters out of the way. He led the team in blocked shots tonight. We won’t know for sure until Big 12 play, a lot like Livingston III and Hamilton IV.
- Kyler Edwards was the second man off the bench, which typically for Beard means he has no depth or has some good freshmen (Culver and Zhaire were first off the bench last year). What stuck out to me the most is his confidence. Sometimes it was great, as he made an open three and went iso a couple times and made baskets. Although he has had a bad shot blocked and a overconfident drive. However, I rather my freshman be confident then scared. The biggest difference was his tenacity on defense, as he poked a ball away and was hounding the defender. He fell behind sometimes on his defenders and had a bad reach in or two, but he’s a freshman, he makes mistakes. He nearly finished with double digits (he might’ve just passed it, I’m not sure), but he was third or fourth in scoring. Lot of hope for him.
- DeShawn Corprew didn’t play a whole lot of minutes and didn’t come in til eight minutes into the game. The fact that I can’t remember many plays from him probably isn’t great. He had a couple bad plays where he had a shot blocked and missed a steal, but he also had a great moment when he hustled out of bounds to save two balls in the same possession. It’s a mystery a lot with JUCO guys.
- Joshua Mballa and Khavon Moore didn’t play for different reasons. Mballa warmed up but didn’t see action. He wasn’t a high rated guy in high school and probably is very raw. He was the biggest mystery and I was hoping to see him, but it appears he may not play much this year. Moore broke his leg in February and it looks like it’s not quite ready yet. Not really surprised, as he might miss a little bit of time early on. Hopefully he’s good by Big 12 play.
I kept on using the word aggressive in this piece, and if you noticed, I stopped using it halfway through because I was using it so much. But that’s how I would describe this team from watching this scrimmage: Aggressiveness.
On defense, it took UTEP a while to score due to great rotation and the smothering defense of everyone, including the big men. On offense, they kept on attacking the basket, got plenty of shots and causing fouls.
Despite that, there was not a lot of made shots early on. A lot of missed shots within five feet from everyone. Some of that was great defense, other times Tech just was attacking strong enough. Tech has the finish around the rim if they want to be successful this season.
The Red Raiders also had some great passes tonight. The ball movement was well and lead to some good shots to great shots. Mooney and Davide can really pass the ball, and Odiase is an underrated passer as a big man.
What concerns me the most is the rotation. There doesn’t seem to be a bunch of depth early on. The starting five was Mooney, Moretti, Culver, Odiase and Owens. Francis and Edwards both checked in the game within two minutes of the contest. After that the next player (Corprew and Ondigo) didn’t check in til the 12 minute mark.
Now some of that will be fixed when Moore returns, but you aren’t going to do much in the Big 12 with just seven guys, especially when they aren’t beyond NBA type talent like at Kansas or Duke. Hopefully one of those latter bench guys come around.
Another concern is the depth of the big men. Last year, Tech got away with just three big men because Zhaire Smith played much bigger than his size and Gray could pass as a four or even a five during some stretches. Odiase and Owens looked fine, but there’s a huge mystery behind them.
Will Ondigo develop well? Will Mballa be ready to play at some point? Will any big wings be able to play a four or five spot? Culver can, but you typically don’t want you’re leading scorer to be exhausted guarding guys bigger than him. The key will be if Moore will be able too. He’s 6’7” and probably won’t be a go to option from the get go, so I’m curious to see if he can be that guy this year.
The season is just five days away folks. I don’t think Tech has a good of a squad as last year obviously with the departures and newcomers, but at the same time, I don’t think they’re missing the tournament either. We’ll know more as the non-conference goes on.