The No. 25 Texas Tech basketball team got the 2022-23 season off to a nice start on Monday night by steamrolling the Northwestern State Demons 73-49 at United Supermarkets Arena.
It was a game that was never in doubt after a 12-2 Texas Tech run broke an 8-8 tie early in the first half. So here are some rapid reactions to what we saw from Mark Adams’ team as they tipped off the season.
Batcho lives up to the hype
For much of the offseason, there was considerable hype surrounding the improvements that sophomore center Daniel Batcho had made. That praise even came from Adams himself who raved to the media about Batcho’s gains.
Therefore, every eye was on the former Arizona transfer on Monday night as he made his first career start as a Red Raider. Fortunately, the Paris, France native delivered.
With 12 points and 10 rebounds, Batcho notched his first career double-double while setting career highs in both categories. He was the only Red Raider to score in double figures and throughout the night he displayed the type of athleticism and agility that was not present in his game a season ago.
Perhaps most importantly, he played 25 minutes and did not pick up a single foul. That’s encouraging because he’s going to have to log serious minutes early in the season as the only true center this team has until transfer Fardaws Aimaq returns from a broken foot suffered in the offseason.
They say a player makes the greatest strides between his first and second season so Batcho could be in for a monster year after averaging just 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game as a redshirt freshman last season. Monday night, he got off to a nice start and showed why so many people are excited about his future.
Too many turnovers
Maybe there is something in the West Texas water that makes teams from Lubbock turn the ball over too much. After all, the Tech football team is the worst team in the Big 12 when it comes to giving the ball away and on Monday night, the Texas Tech basketball team committed a whopping 20 turnovers.
Of course, it is only one game and in that game, Adams gave some serious playing time to his five true freshmen. Thus, mistakes were bound to happen.
However, one player to watch in terms of turnovers is Richard “Pop” Isaacs. The true freshman started for Tech and logged quite a bit of time as the team’s point guard when Oregon transfer De’Vion Harmon was not on the floor.
The good news is that Isaacs showed fantastic shooting touch knocking down two of his three attempts from beyond the arc on his way to six points. On the other hand, he was extremely loose with the ball giving it away five times, most on the team. That’s not going to cut it if he’s going to be one of the Red Raider’s primary ball handlers this year.
Last year, Tech was 257th out of 350 teams in the nation in turnovers per game at 13.5. That’s a stat that must improve this year. However, in the opener, that critical aspect of the game was once again a troublesome area for the Red Raiders.
New offense a work in progress
This offseason, Tech brought in long-time South Plains College head coach Steve Green to upgrade the Red Raiders’ offensive approach. Green is known for patterning his offense after that of the Golden State Warriors and the results at South Plains were boffo.
The two main differences fans may notice in Green’s philosophy are an increased pace of play and a heavier reliance on the 3-point shot. After one game though, it is clear that Tech is still trying to round into form on that end of the court.
The Red Raiders shot only 18 shots from beyond the arc. Making seven of them, they were at 38.9% for the game, a rather efficient number. That’s only one more made 3-pointer than the team averaged last season.
The good news is that the Red Raiders shot 52.2% from the floor for the game. Still, many expected the 3-ball to be a bigger component of Tech’s offensive attack than it was against Northwestern State. Perhaps it will be as the Red Raiders settle in this season. But on the first night of the season, the outside shooting was not what carried the Red Raiders to victory.
Walton was a spark off the bench
One intriguing newcomer to the team is North Carolina transfer, Kerwin Walton. As a true freshman two seasons ago, he set a Tarheel freshman record by hitting 42% of his 3-point attempts on his way to averaging 8.2 points per game.
However, with a coaching change last season, he saw his role diminish greatly as he played almost eight minutes less per game and scored only 3.4 points per game. Thus, no one knew exactly what to expect from him this season.
For at least one game, he was impressive despite the fact that his calling card, the 3-point shot, wasn’t on display. Even though he was 0-3 from deep, he still managed to put up nine points in 24 minutes of action to lead all of Tech’s reserves in scoring and minutes.
What’s more, he also grabbed four rebounds, blocked two shots, and handed out an assist. That’s a busy night for a player who was thought by many to be strictly an outside shooter.
Tech is going to need to have some experience leading its bench players and Walton would fit that bill. And in his Red Raider debut, he looked like a player who can be a huge asset off the bench.