In most games, scoring just above 1 point per possession means you'll be in the game. Not so in Baylor's loss to Texas Tech. The Red Raiders scored a blistering 1.29 points per possession, leading to a blowout 84-66 loss at home, where Baylor has lost three straight conference games.
Was the defense really the problem, though? On a team level, I would actually answer in the negative. Aside from the first 6 minutes of the game, in which Tech scored on 6 of its first 8 possessions to jump out to a 14-4 lead, Baylor's team defense was somewhere between acceptable and solid for the majority of the game. In the first half, Tech had only three attempts at the rim, and the only first half score at the rim for Tech was a dunk that came in the first 5 minutes, before Baylor switched to man defense. In the second half, the Raiders were 4-7 on layups, plus two dunks. That means 12 of Techs 45 attempts came at the rim, and just 7 of its 26 makes. Compared to Baylor's 25 attempts at the rim, you can see the Bears' defense was relatively successful at deterring point-blank shots. Tech was 19-33 on jump shots and 10-17 on two-pointers, most of which were either well contested, late in the shot clock, or from 16+ feet, all shots a defense is more than willing to live with. For instance, 7 of Zach Smith's 8 attempts were two-point jumpers. The downside: he made 6 of those shots, despite being heavily contested on several of them.
I say all this to provide some context for Tech's shooting percentage. Tech was 57.8% from the field because it made tough shots, not because Baylor's defense gave it an open invitation.
Where Baylor's defense did fail was containing the dribble drive, and it all started with Lester Medford. After Drew switched his defensive scheme from zone to man-to-man 5 minutes into the game, Keenan Evans absolutely obliterated Medford. With a 5" height advantage, Evans was able to bully past Medford one-on-one whenever he wanted. Anytime Evans ran through screens or was the ball handler in a pick-an-roll, Medford died on the screen, too small and not practiced enough to get around the bigger bodies.
Usually, Medford doesn't have to worry about this sort of problem. When he's playing the top of the zone, he knows the help defense will always be behind him, and his partner at the top of the key will always switch with him if there's a ball screen. This is where, as much as Baylor fans - myself chief among them - would like Drew to be more willing to switch the defense, playing man-to-man is a risk. If there isn't a non-threatening perimeter player to hide Medford on, teams will attack him relentlessly.
Evans' success in getting into the paint didn't result in many layups or dunks - he was 1-2 at the rim - but it did lead to a number of fouls. Medford finished the game with 4, and there were numerous times when the secondary defender was forced to foul Evans because Medford had been beaten so badly. Evans finished the game 8-9 from the line. When he wasn't fouled, Evans was able to move the ball without much trouble as Baylor's defense was scrambling to make rotations it isn't accustomed to, the other danger of man defense. If a team has a player capable of breaking down the defense on his own, Baylor isn't practiced enough to recover consistently. In this game, that led to a high number of free throws. In a game against a more talented opponent, poor rotations could mean open season on the rim.
Texas Tech's free throws got a boost from technical and flagrant fouls - looking at you, Rico - but even then, Baylor committed far too many shooting fouls to stay in this game.
Which takes us to the other end of the floor, where Tubby Smith out coached Drew for most of the night. I've noted numerous times that Baylor is an inside-out offense. If the inside scorers can't get it going, it makes it tough for the perimeter players to find space to shoot or drive. The outside scoring supplements whatever comes out of the post. Smith's plan, then, was to double-team every post touch Baylor had and force Rico Gathers, Johnathan Motley, and Terry Maston to pass the ball as Tech's off-ball defenders swarmed the strong side of the court. They couldn't find the open man, and those three combined for 7 turnovers.
Despite Tech's obvious intent to swarm the bigs, Baylor persisted in forcing the ball inside, and when finally that tactic was abandoned, Drew couldn't come up with a suitable alternative. Once they fell into half court offense, the Bears looked lost, sometimes standing still and sometimes bringing multiple players towards the ball, as though unsure who should set the ball screen. Baylor's best offense was in transition, but Tech scored too efficiently for that to become a major factor outside the 10-0 run Baylor had to tie the game at 14.
Taurean Prince was Baylor's only consistent player on both ends. On offense, he scored a team high 17 points, was 3-4 from deep, and handed out 2 assists. On defense, he played his man well, disrupted passes, and had a monster block on Smith. His energy was great, and often was the only reason the game was close for the first 25 minutes. He just had too little help from his teammates to keep up with Tech.
Medford contributed 13 and 6, but was 4-13 from the field and 3-7 from three. King McClure and Jake Lindsey were a combined 2-9 from the floor. Motley had 1 rebound, and 6 of his 10 points came in garbage time. Gathers was 2-7 from the field and 3-7 from the line. He also had a horrendous flagrant two foul near the close of the game, frustratedly slapping Justin Gray (17 pts) to the floor in lieu of actual defense.
Baylor's passing and off-ball movement was simply too disjointed to sustain enough offense to match Tech's incredible shooting, and Drew couldn't find an answer to the swarming defense that met each post touch. I'm not sure I know what the answer should have been (perhaps some back screens for the bigs so they could get the ball deep and shoot before the double-team arrived, or some flares to open Al Freeman at the three-point line, where he had 0 attempts for the first time this season), but the offense relied too much on Prince and Medford to create something out of nothing.
In sum, Tech won because it shot the lights out, but Baylor could have done more to keep the game close.
Thanks to a topsy-turvy week, Baylor has hung on at No. 25 in the AP Poll. That means two more top 25 matchups for the Bears this week. Be sure to get to the Ferrell Center Tuesday night when No. 13 Iowa State will look to avenge the loss in Ames.
|Texas Tech Red Raiders|
|Zach Smith, F||39||6-8||0-0||4-5||1||8||9||2||2||2||2||1||16|
|Matthew Temple, F||15||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||1||0||1||0||2||0|
|Toddrick Gotcher, G||26||2-6||1-2||2-2||0||2||2||2||1||0||0||4||7|
|Keenan Evans, G||36||5-8||3-5||8-9||0||1||1||5||4||1||2||2||21|
|Justin Gray, G||31||7-9||2-4||1-2||1||2||3||2||0||2||2||2||17|
|Aaron Ross, F||27||3-8||2-3||6-8||2||4||6||1||0||1||3||1||14|
|Devon Thomas, G||4||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||0|
|Devaugntah Williams, G||22||3-6||1-2||2-2||0||1||1||3||1||0||3||1||9|
|Rico Gathers, F||28||2-7||0-0||3-7||5||4||9||0||1||0||3||2||7|
|Taurean Prince, F||35||7-11||3-4||0-0||1||3||4||2||0||1||3||1||17|
|Al Freeman, G||29||3-6||0-0||0-0||4||3||7||3||4||0||2||2||6|
|Ishmail Wainright, G||21||3-6||1-2||2-2||3||1||4||0||0||0||0||4||9|
|Lester Medford, G||33||4-13||3-7||2-2||0||1||1||6||2||0||1||4||13|
|Terry Maston, F||4||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||1||0|
|Johnathan Motley, F||13||5-6||0-0||0-0||1||0||1||0||0||0||1||2||10|
|Austin Mills, G||0||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jake Lindsey, G||19||1-3||0-0||0-0||1||3||4||2||1||1||2||3||2|
|King McClure, G||18||1-6||0-3||0-0||0||1||1||2||4||0||0||2||2|