Throughout the season, even before the Red Raiders lost to Duke and some weaknesses were revealed, we knew there were some issues surrounding the team. One of those issues really entered the spotlight during the lone loss of the season; who else could you trust outside of Jarrett Culver.
The projected lottery pick scored 25 points in the game, but it seemed every play down the stretch of that game went through him. You could tell he was getting tired from guarding R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson and didn’t have the energy to score like he does at the end of the contest.
However, after watching the first four conference games, it appeared that the problem has started to, at the very least, fade away. Although Culver has had some big baskets, which include the lay-up late against West Virginia and the whole last four minutes of the game against Oklahoma, Davide Moretti has really stepped up as a clutch, second option. I know Matt Mooney has one more point so far in Big 12 play, but Moretti has shown up big in every game shooting the ball.
Last year, the second option was Culver or Zhaire Smith, depending on the situation and opponent. Those two averaged 12.7 and 12.3 ppg on 47% and 55% shooting, respectively. This year, Moretti is averaging 14.0 ppg on 50% shooting and 44% from three (not to mention 85 FT%). And these aren’t easy shots. A lot of them are late, clutch shots in close game situations.
Let’s start with the West Virginia game, where Davide hit two of the three biggest shots of the game. The first was in the first minute of the second half. Tech had struggled to score and had worked their back to a one possession game. Moretti caught a Mooney pass, pump faked, and hit a side-step three while being fouled. Four point play and the lead.
The second came with the Red Raiders down a point late in the game. Culver was only guy who could buy a basket, but Moretti didn’t care about that and threw up a deep three with two defenders closing in. Onions.
The last one was especially huge because Tech had been playing catch-up the past few minutes, but the three let Tech take the lead and put the pressure on West Virginia to catch them. It also let teams know you have to guard Moretti on the three, giving more driving lanes for Culver.
While Moretti played the role of mounting a comeback against West Virginia, his role against Kansas State was the kill the momentum. The Wildcats were down 15 at half and cut the lead down to five with 13 minutes left. This time, Moretti had a whole stretch of scoring all to himself.
From the 13 minute mark onward, only four field goals were made by the Red Raiders. All four of the mere scored by the man they call Moro. This includes a fastbreak three after an Owens block, along with two lay-ups. Both isolation drives, one where he faded away and one where he attacked the basket. The only play not shown was the three pointer below, which was the biggest play of the game.
Against Oklahoma, Moretti didn’t really have any clutch shots, but he did get the scoring started, netting the first six points and assisting on the next basket. This was key, as the game was close and Tech fell behind at halftime. It would’ve been double digit deficit if not for Moretti.
Not only that, but at the end of this game (along with the West Virginia game), whenever Culver couldn’t get to the free throw line, it was Moretti who attempted the free throws. He’s missed just one free throw in these situations.
Finally we come to the Texas game. This was Mooney’s chance to take over, but the thing about Moretti is that he is a great spot up shooter. He can create off the dribble, but his main contribution is getting open and knocking down the open shot.
There were a lot of key plays in the second half of this game. First of which was another four point play by Moretti. At the 15:20 mark, Brandone Francis was heading towards the basket, so Moretti wisely moved to the corner. Francis passed him the ball, and Moro buried a three while getting wacked.
The second was a similar situation. The red hot Mooney drove in, drawing two defenders because of his stretch in the second half. The defender, obviously, moved to cover Culver. Luckily for Tech, that meant Davide, who leads the team in three-point percentage and three point attempts in Big 12 play, was left wide open. Easy money.
Finally, the last one shows how much respect he has gotten over the last couple games. Moro drove to the basket and immediately drew two defender. When this happens, that means someone is open. Moretti pumped faked, both defenders jumped, and Davide swiftly passed it to a wide open Norense Odiase in the restricted area.
We’ve been clamoring for that second scoring option, and Moretti has given it to us. He has scored double digits in all four games thus far, and has become a serious threat to score the basketball. Of course, Culver will still get all the attention, but at least we know Tech can score points without him if needed.