Following Tuesday’s 69-61 victory over Oklahoma in Lubbock, Texas Tech basketball head coach Chris Beard did not hold back when discussing some frustrations he has with his team.
Chris Beard is fond of saying that everyone in his program is a “truth-teller”. He walked that walk Tuesday night after his team played without intensity and urgency for long stretches of a 69-61 victory over Oklahoma in Lubbock.
It was a critical win because it moved the Red Raiders to 5-4 in Big 12 play as they head to the second half of the conference schedule. But while Beard wasn’t going to turn his nose up at any conference win, he also made certain to drop some truth bombs immediately after the game as he called out his team in a way that we haven’t seen all that often during his four seasons on the job.
“We were trying to guard in the last eight minutes of the game like there was one minute left in the game,” Beard said in his postgame press conference. “It would be nice to have a team that did that all the time but that’s just not where we are now, it’s where we got to get.”
In the final eight minutes, Tech held OU to just 3-11 shooting and forced three turnovers as the Sooners managed to score just eight points. That came on a night when OU shot 22-45 (48.8%) for the other 32 minutes of the game while committing just seven turnovers.
Of course, it was better for the trademark Texas Tech defense to show up late to the party rather than miss it all together as many fans were fearful might be the case as OU’s Bradey Manek and Austin Reaves hit shot after shot to keep their team in the game. But playing with its food is not going to be a wise plan for Tech as Beard’s team fights to secure the program’s third-straight NCAA Tournament birth, which would be a first in Texas Tech basketball history.
Immediately after the game, Beard always speaks to Chris Level, the color analyst for the Texas Tech basketball radio broadcast and on Tuesday, he pulled no punches when venting his frustrations. When Level asked Beard about the play of senior forward T.J. Holyfield (21 points and 6 rebounds), the head coach praised his grad transfer before pivoting and pointing out that other players on the team are not as willing to accept coaching as Holyfield has been.
“We got some guys on this team that don’t want to be coached…it’s new to me,” he said.
It’s hard to fathom how any player that doesn’t want to be coached as hard as possible would ever consider playing for Chris Beard. On the other hand, it has to be impossible to understand just how intense and demanding Beard and his assistants are on their players until one experiences it over the course of a full season. That intensity is what has provided this program with an edge over the competition in the last three seasons but not that the overall talent level of the program has risen to new heights, one has to wonder if Beard will find it more difficult to recruit players that are talented enough to be program-changers while also being “street dogs“.
Of course, this program’s identity comes on the defensive end of the floor. That’s what carried last year’s team to the National Title Game and what Beard believes must be the foundation of this season’s team. But based on what he told Level on Tuesday night, not everyone on the roster has bought into that philosophy.
“We got some guys out there that pick and choose which possessions to play defense,” Beard said. “It doesn’t work that way at this level.”
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Prior to the game against OU, Tech’s last three opponents had scored at least 76 points (though it took Kentucky an overtime period to get there). What’s more, four of the last five teams Tech has faced have shot at least 43% from the field.
Naturally, Beard didn’t call out any individual players on Tuesday. Thus, it wouldn’t be fair for us to speculate on who is drawing his ire.
But to provide some context, let’s look at the roster’s overall defensive efficiency rankings according to Sports Reference. In the advanced analytics category that measures how many points per 100 possessions each defender would surrender, Kevin McCullar, Chris Clarke, and T.J. Holyfield lead the team by each allowing fewer than 90 points per 100 possessions.
Avery Benson and Jahmi’us Ramsey are No. 4 and No. 5 respectively by allowing 91.3 and 91.3. Andrei Savrasov and Terrence Shannon Jr. are next at 92.0, just ahead of Russell Tchewa (92.1) and Clarence Nadolny (92.7).
That brings us to the final two players, Kyler Edwards at 93.3 and Davide Moretti at 96.4. But this isn’t to suggest that they are the players that Beard was frustrated with.
Edwards’ numbers are likely hurt by the fact that he is asked to guard the opposition’s best scorer for most of the game. In fact, he’s proven to be a surprisingly solid on-ball defender, something that we did not know was part of his game coming into the season.
Moretti seems to play as hard as possible on every possession but his limited lateral quickness, as well as his lack of elite size and length, make him a marginal one-on-one defender. He’s often targeted by larger players when the Red Raiders switch on a screen and that has served to hurt his defensive rating as well.
Thus, fans are going to have to judge for themselves which players they believe Beard is talking about. If you watched last night’s game, you probably noticed which players seemed to be locked in on every defensive possession and which were not.
But what is most interesting is the fact that Beard has grown so frustrated with some of his players that he’s taken to firing shots in the media to try to get his message across. That’s not a tactic he’s had to resort to thus far in his time in Lubbock and it gives us some critical insight into what he believes that is holding this team back.