Texas Tech Basketball: Keenan Evans Struggles Causing Offense To Falter

AUSTIN, TX - JANUARY 17: Keenan Evans
AUSTIN, TX - JANUARY 17: Keenan Evans /

The Texas Tech basketball team is in the midst of its first losing streak of the season following Saturday’s 70-52 defeat at Iowa State.  One of the biggest contributing factors to the Red Raiders’ struggles has been the lack of production from senior point guard Keenan Evans.

For the first time this season the Texas Tech basketball team is facing sustained adversity.  After consecutive weeks of being ranked in the top 10 in the national polls, the Red Raiders dropped two games in a row last week during which the team averaged just 55 points per game.

There are plenty of reasons for the recent offensive downturn (turnovers, poor shot selection, lack of transition buckets) but one of the most glaring has been the sub par play of Keenan Evans.  The senior guard from Richardson, Texas has been the Red Raiders’ leading scorer for the past two seasons.  During that time, he’s taken on the role of the go-to scorer tasked with making the big shots with the game on the line.

But in losses at Texas and Iowa State, Evans disappeared from the offensive attack.  He averaged just nine points per contest, eight points below his season average of 17.

Prior to last week, Evans had been the one constant offensive weapon for Texas Tech.  He scored at least 11 points in 16 of Tech’s first 17 games.

Evans reached the 11-point mark against Texas on Wednesday but totaled just seven yesterday against Iowa State.  During both games, Evans appeared rattled (he committed four turnovers against the Longhorns) and out of sync.

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One of the most telling statistics is the number of three-point attempts Evans has hoisted of late. On the season, he’s put up an average of 4.3 shots per game from deep but in the past two games he’s attempted 6.5 threes per outing.

While Evans is arguably Texas Tech’s best three-point threat, he makes his living by driving to the basket and making shots in the lane or drawing fouls.  But against two teams in Texas and Iowa State that have big rim-protecting centers, Evans showed little desire to penetrate off the dribble.

Against the Horns, Evans went 0-5 from beyond the arc and against the Cyclones he was just 2-8. Not coincidentally, Evans attempted just two free-throws yesterday in Ames as he settled for jump shots.

Keenan Evans is the piston that drives Texas Tech’s offense.  While head coach Chris Beard wants balanced scoring, he looks to Evans to make plays for his teammates by breaking down opposing teams off the dribble.

When Evans penetrates the defense with the drive, he creates open shots for perimeter shooters or draws opposing big men away from the rim.  Unfortunately, his lack of dribble penetration in the last two games allowed Texas center Mo Bamba and Iowa State center Cameron Lard to stay home and defend the paint.

Subsequently, Bamba blocked five shots and Lard blocked three as they helped shut down the Red Raider offense.  But even if the opponent does feature a dominant big man, Evans (and the other Red Raiders) need to continually drive to the rim and try to get opponents in foul trouble.

In fairness, it is the entire roster that has fallen into an offensive slump, not just Evans.  Texas Tech is not built like Oklahoma which asks its point guard (Trae Young) to score thirty points a game and dish out ten assists.  Evans is not always tasked with being the savior of the offense but he is the man that sets the tone.

Against the rugged Big 12, there are going to be times when Texas Tech needs its best player to carry the team.  Evans must be the steadying hand that Chris Beard can turn to when his team needs big buckets to stop an opponent’s run or to seal a close game.

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For the Red Raiders to get back on track this week, Evans must look to assert himself offensively and play a more aggressive style of basketball.  If he will do so, the Texas Tech basketball team will almost certainly pull itself out of its recent offensive slump.