Reason No. 2: Improved Free Throw Shooting
One sign of a young team is poor free throw shooting and last year’s freshman laden Texas Tech basketball team struggled at the foul line. In 2014-15, the Red Raiders shot an unacceptable 64% from the charity stripe but that number improved to 74% this season.
The team that finished ninth in free throw shooting in the Big 12 a season ago ended this year ranked first in the league. The importance of being able to hit clutch free throws down the stretch of close games is often overlooked but it was a key for the Texas Tech Red Raiders this year.
On the season, Texas Tech shot 146 more free throws than did its opponents. The team scored 134 total points more at the line than the teams it played. This averaged out to 4.3 points per game.
In the conference opener against Texas, the Red Raiders hit 27 of 30 free throws outscoring the Horns by 12 points. In the eight-point victory, it is easy to see how important free throws were to Texas Tech.
When Texas Tech upset No. 14 Iowa State 85-82 in overtime at the United Supermarkets Arena, the Red Raiders were 17-23 from the line while the Cyclones were a mere 6-10. Texas Tech continually drove the ball to the rim while Iowa State based its offense around jump shots and failed to get to the line giving Tubby Smith’s team an 11-point edge.
In a late season home comeback victory over TCU, Texas Tech outscored the Horned Frogs by 12 points at the free throw line in a four-point win. For a team like Texas Tech that was severely outshot by its opponents from the three-point-line on most nights, being able to have a significant advantage at the foul stripe is often the equalizer needed to win close games.
Next: Reason No. 4: The Coach of the Year