Texas Tech basketball: Losing streak at three games with OT loss to DePaul

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 04: Terrence Shannon Jr. #1 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts after being fouled while shooting in the second half against the DePaul Blue Demons at Wintrust Arena on December 04, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 04: Terrence Shannon Jr. #1 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts after being fouled while shooting in the second half against the DePaul Blue Demons at Wintrust Arena on December 04, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

The Texas Tech basketball team has now lost three-straight games after Wednesday’s 65-60 OT loss at DePaul.

There’s nothing Texas Tech fans feel more confident in than Davide Moretti at the free-throw line.  But on Wednesday night, the junior who was a 92.4% shooter at the line and had made 22-straight to start this year missed a free throw with :17 to play and his team up 53-50 allowing DePaul to send the game to OT when Jalen Coleman-Lands drilled a 3-pointer with :08 remaining.

In the extra frame, the Blue Demons made the plays that Tech couldn’t and took home a 65-60 win in a game that felt like it should have been played in a caged octagon with Michael Buffer on the mic.  The Red Raiders’ second-straight overtime loss is the team’s third-consecutive setback against Power 5 conference teams after opening the year 5-0 against a collection of teams no one has ever heard of.

It’s been a slog for the Red Raiders over the past week with leading scorer Jahmius Ramsey missing his second-straight game after a hamstring injury forced him to miss the second half of the Thanksgiving night loss to Iowa.  Without his explosive scoring ability on the floor, stalwarts like Moretti and Kyler Edwards have struggled as they have become the focus of the opposing teams’ defensive efforts.

That was again the case in Chicago as Moretti was 1-10 from the field on his way to 10 points and Edwards was 5-11 with 12 points as the Red Raider offense struggled once again.  But even worse was the combined four points Tech received from its two grad transfers, T.J. Holyfield, who was held scoreless, and Chris Clarke, who was just 2-5 from the field as his passivity on offense was again a problem after he had become more assertive last week in the Las Vegas Invitational.

Had it not been for the heroics of Chicago native Terence Shannon Jr., the Red Raiders would have never even sniffed overtime.  Returning to his hometown, the true freshman scored a career-high 24 points on 9-18 shooting almost single-handedly carrying the Red Raiders in the second half.

The explosive 6-foot-7 wing was unstoppable off the dribble as be bulled his way to the rim on drive after drive to keep Tech in the game.  He even drilled a couple of big 3-pointers, the second of which gave his team a 60-58 lead with 1:13 to play in overtime.  The problem is that those would be Tech’s final points of the game.

Coleman-Lands would answer with a three-pointer on the other end to spark a 7-0 game-ending run that saw Shannon miss two deep desperation looks from behind the arc, which was somewhat excusable given that Moretti finished the game on the bench after fouling out with 1:41 to play in OT leaving Tech rather impotent offensively.

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With more baskets for the game than the other four Texas Tech starters combined, Shannon gave Tech fans hopes that he can be a reliable scorer moving forward.  Taking over the game, he grew up before our eyes and in front of family and friends just miles from where he grew up and played his high school basketball.

The problem for Tech though was not just the offense.  Although the defense played better against the Blue Demons, especially in holding point guard Charlier Moore to just six points, over 11 below his season average, a familiar problem doomed Tech in the cutch, an inability to defend the 3-point shot.

For the game, DePaul was merely 5-21 from behind the arc but with the game on the line, Coleman-Lands got hot.  Including his game-tying jumper in regulation, three of his four made shots from long-range came in the final six minutes of the game.

Meanwhile, Tech struggled in the post where the two 6-foot-9 DePaul forwards feasted. Paul Reed had 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks while Jalen Butz had 17 points and 7 boards of his own in what was a continuation of Tech’s struggles to deal with size in the paint.

That’s where Beard had been counting on 6-foot-9 UNLV transfer Joel Ntambwe to be able to play this year.  But since his waiver for eligibility was denied by the NCAA, the Tech head coach has been less than shy about voicing his displeasure with the ruling after three other UNLV transfers were granted waivers this year.

We now see why that unjust and inexplicable ruling was so damning to the Red Raiders.  With 7-footer Russell Techewa not ready to play meaningful minutes and 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman Andre Savrasov still lacking confidence, Tech may have to hope that another 6-foot-7 freshman, Tyreek Smith, is able to give the team some defense and rebounding off the bench if he is able to return from a foot injury that has kept him out all season.

But this is no time for Texas Tech fans to panic, even with No. 1 Louisville up next on Tuesday night.  Even if Tech loses that game to make the skid four-straight, all is not lost.

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The beauty of the NCAA basketball season is that there is a fantastic 68-team tournament at the end of the season to decide the champion and as we learned last year when Tech had a 3-game losing streak in January, that’s when Beard should have his team playing at its best.  Though this loss was another of the throw the remote at the couch variety, it is one that we may look back on as the night when one of this team’s highly-touted freshmen became a legitimate piece of this year’s puzzle on the offensive end of the floor.  That’s something that we can live with in early December.