When Mooney committed to the Red Raiders, most of the nation didn’t think too much of it. Mooney wasn’t a highly rated recruit out of high school, played at Air Force before South Dakota, where he played in a one-bid conference in the Summit League.
In fact, I didn’t have super high expectations for him either. Sure, Mooney was productive at South Dakota, as he averaged 18.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists. But I wasn’t sure how he would translate to facing the toughest competition in the country.
As I told the STP staffers prior to the season, I expected him to score somewhere between six and nine points a game and to be the sixth man for the Red Raiders. However, he turned out to be much more than that.
Mooney had a poise of a veteran, and immediately made an impact on the offense side of the ball. Defensively, he was even better. I didn’t realize the defender Tech was getting in Mooney with his 2.3 defensive win shares and PER of 23.5 a season ago.
That being said, I saw some concerns once Big 12 play started. First off, his shooting was a little off. Mooney was shooting 39% the first half of Big 12 play and 22% from behind the arc.
That started to change after the Arkansas game when Mooney started to hit more threes. Since then, he’s shooting 42% overall and 45% from three. A few of those are behind the arc and even on a few logos. In fact, he was a perfect 5-5 against Oklahoma State.
Secondly, he wasn’t taking care of the rock. Prior to the Arkansas game, Mooney had a .66 A/TO ratio in Big 12 play, with 10 assists and 15 turnovers. After the break in Big 12 play, he’s had a 2.7 A/TO Ratio with 19 assists and seven turnovers.
Even though Texas Tech has played one less Big 12 game after the Arkansas game, he cut his turnovers in half and doubled his assists. He had five great assists and just one TO against TCU.
Finally, Mooney was passive early on in his Tech career. There were opportunities in early games where he was open or had a chance to drive the ball, and instead passed it off. Now, he’s taking advantage of open baselines caused by the defense and is willing to pull up from behind the arc or in transition.
The improvement in these three categories as Big 12 as has progressed is part of the reason why Texas Tech has won five of their past six conference games. The final stretch is ahead for the Red Raiders, with games against Kansas, at TCU and at Iowa State, not to mention that every Big 12 game is tough. For the Red Raiders to keep it up, they’ll need this Matt Mooney.