No. 25 Texas Tech didn’t make it through the thorniest portion of its nonconference schedule unscathed, but the Red Raiders gained confidence in lieu of high-level success.
Now they look to re-establish some momentum with a pair of home games before beginning Big 12 Conference play, starting with a matchup vs. Eastern Washington in Lubbock, Texas, on Wednesday afternoon.
After a pillowy-soft early schedule, Texas Tech (8-2) endured three tough tests away from home, culminating with a 69-55 loss to then-No. 5 Gonzaga on Saturday in Phoenix.
That left the Red Raiders 1-2 in their tough December three-step. They lost at Providence but beat then-No. 13 Tennessee in New York.
Texas Tech’s defense had plenty of bright moments in the loss to Gonzaga: Bulldogs stars Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren combined for only 12 points. But Gonzaga compensated nicely by drilling a season-best 13 3-pointers and held a comfortable lead for most of the final 30 minutes.
“We felt like we were trying to play catch up all night,” Texas Tech coach Mark Adams said. “Gonzaga is such an efficient team; they do so many things well. They missed some shots early and some threes. We were able to keep Timme and Chet in check — we did a good job with those guys, that was our emphasis.
“But then, they’re such a balanced offensive team that they got the ball to those 3-point shooters and they made some big shots.”
Meanwhile, the Red Raiders scuffled to make shots despite a surprisingly strong effort in the paint (26 points). Texas Tech shot only 34.5 percent in the second half (10 of 29) and never found a comfort zone from outside the arc.
Part of the issue was playing without Terrence Shannon Jr., who was scratched right before the game due to back spasms. Shannon is the Red Raiders’ co-leading scorer (14.3 ppg).
Kevin McCullar and Adonis Arms led the Red Raiders on Saturday with 14 points each.
“Any team that has the talent and caliber of player of Shannon, it’s going to make a difference,” Adams said of being without a key player. “He’s a problem for other teams and makes a big difference for us on offense.”
Eastern Washington (6-5) didn’t have many problems in its most recent outing, a 95-56 blistering of NAIA program Multnomah on Dec. 15. The Eagles snagged a school-record 68 rebounds on a night when Multnomah shot just 32.4 percent.
“It’s good to get players out there in games like tonight and build trust in their game, to get them minutes and get them comfortable coming out,” Eastern Washington coach David Riley said. “There’s going to be times where someone may go down or be in foul trouble, and we have to be ready for the next man up. …
“We have a big game on Wednesday. We’ve had a chance to evaluate over the past 11 games, and we know who we are.”
The Eagles’ earlier schedule included losses to Nevada and Colorado and a win against Washington State, all three games on the road.
Steele Venters leads the Eagles with 18.5 points a game and is a 48.3 percent shooter from 3-point range. Linton Acliese is Eastern Washington’s leading rebounder (7.5 per game) and is supplying 15 points per contest.
–Field Level Media