Tuesday night, the Texas Tech basketball team got a career-high 24 points from Kyler Edwards in Manhattan and it was because he was able to get to the rim.
Texas Tech basketball fans are hoping that the version of Kyler Edwards that we saw Tuesday night in Manhattan, Kansas is the version we see for the remainder of the year. While no one expects to see him go for over 20 points each night as he did against Kansas State when he had a career-best 24, but what we want to see is a continued change in how he goes about getting his points.
Much has been made this year about Edwards’ prolonged shooting woes. After hitting at a 41.3% rate as a freshman, he’s been just a 38.1% shooter this year. More importantly, his 3-point shooting has dropped from 44.9% last year to 26.2% this season.
But despite that massive drop, he’s not been shy when pulling the trigger from deep. Thus far, he’s attempted five shots per game from behind the arc. What’s more, his 80 long-range attempts are second on the team behind Davide Moretti’s 93.
That’s been his problem. Too much of his offense has come via his jumper and since that hasn’t been falling, he’s been one of this team’s most inefficient scorers.
What changed in Manhattan? He took the ball to the rim.
Against KSU, he shot 9-14 from the floor, his best shooting game of the year and only the second time this year he’s shot over 50% in a game. A huge reason for that proficiency was the fact that he attempted only four 3-pointers, of which he made three.
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In the other three Big 12 games thus far, he averaged just five 2-point attempts per game. Against the Wildcats, he had 10 such shots.
But taking it a step further, he was not just content to settle for 2-point jumpers, which are the most inefficient shots in basketball. He was more willing to get all the way to the rim.
Tuesday, five of his nine baskets came inside the restricted arc in the paint while one more of his baskets was a short jumper from inside the free-throw line. That was almost as many buckets in the lane as he had in the three previous games combined.
Against West Virginia, he made only two shots at the rim, against Baylor he had just one, and against Oklahoma State he had just three (which accounted for all of his makes in the game).
As a team, Tech was much more willing to attack the rim on Tuesday, even without freshman Terrence Shannon Jr., who has proven to be this roster’s best slasher. Shooting 18 shots from behind the arc, they cut down from the 25 they had been averaging prior to that in Big 12 play.
Part of that was because the Wildcats are nowhere near as big or physical inside as are the Bears or Mountaineers. That led to Beard going to the pick-and-roll at the top of the key with either Edwards or Jahmi’us Ramsey driving to the rim on virtually every possession down the stretch.
Let’s see if that move proves to be fruitful as we continue the season by opening his players’ eyes to the fact that they can have success by taking their defender off the dribble. Both Ramsey and Ewards have at times this year fallen too much in love with the 3-point shot and though both will need to continue to be outside threats, each must diversify their offensive attacks the way they did in their most recent game (of the 26 combined shots they attempted Tuesday, just nine were 3-pointers).
We won’t know for certain until this season has played out but there’s reason to believe that the victory over Kansas State could prove to be a turning point for this team, even though the Wildcats are the last-place team in the conference. That’s because it was an ugly road game that Tech had to win by getting back to its DNA of being street dogs. And one huge aspect was the willingness of Kyler Edwards and his teammates to score at the rim.