Tuesday, the Texas Tech basketball team rebounded from its first loss of the season by taking out its frustrations on a truly dreadful Louisville team. In fact, had Tech left its regulars in the game for the duration, the score would have been even more lopsided than the 70-38 final. Here are a few quick thoughts on what we saw from the Red Raiders as they moved to 4-1 on the season.
Batcho continues his excellent play
It’s been only five games as a starter for sophomore forward Daniel Batcho but already, he’s proven that he’s made huge strides from last year. In fact, he’s playing at a level that, if it continues, would make him one of the better big men in the Big 12.
After scoring 17 points and grabbing five boards against No. 10 Creighton on Monday, Batcho put up 9 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in only 26 minutes of action against the Cardinals.
Batcho’s impact was greater than even what the numbers he put up would suggest. Most notable was his massive two-handed block where he simply pinned a Creighton shot against the backboard and pulled it down. That was one of the defining moments of this contest and a show of just how dominant Batcho can be.
So far this year, Batcho has been arguably Tech’s best player. He’s averaging 11.3 points, 6.5 boards, and two blocks per game. What’s more, those numbers may even go up when he plays more minutes against Big 12 teams.
Tech didn’t really need Batcho to dominate in the first three games of the year but in Maui, he’s taken his game to the level that this team will need it to remain at for this year to go as planned. Playing with a relentlessness that is easy to notice, the big man is coming into his own and developing into one of the most productive post players in the conference.
Obanor steps up
After a bit of a quiet game against Creighton, senior Kevin Obanor was fantastic against Louisville. With 15 points and five rebounds on 6-9 shooting in only 21 minutes of action, he was at his most efficient.
What was most encouraging was that Obanor did all of that damage without relying on his go-to, the 3-point shot. He was physical, active, and attacking when he had the ball and that’s the type of effort this team needs from him on a consistent basis.
Reserve freshmen impress
A pair of freshmen reserves, Lamar Washington and Robert Jennings seemed to grow up a little bit on Tuesday. Washington played 23 minutes, the most of any bench player, and scored 4 points while grabbing 7 boards and handing out 4 assists. Now, it is fair to wonder if he’s become the first guard Mark Adams wants to turn to off the bench as he saw far more action than either Kerwin Walton or D’Maurian Williams, two transfers that most expected to be key bench pieces this year.
Meanwhile, Jennings is vying to be the primary backup to Obanor and Batcho in the post. On Tuesday, he had his best effort thus far with 8 points and 3 rebounds in 15 minutes.
As the only healthy player on the Red Raider bench over 6-foot-6, there is an opportunity for Jennings to play meaningful minutes until 7-foot transfer Fardaws Aimaq returns to action from a broken foot. In fact, Tech may have no choice but to continue to trust him with a key role.
After the way these two youngsters played against the Cardinals, it will be interesting to see if they play bigger roles on Wednesday against Ohio State. There’s certainly an opportunity for both to carve out roles on this team. Tuesday might have been a big step in that direction for each.
Let’s not overreact
While this massive win was impressive, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that it proves that Tech is a contender at this point. That’s because Louisville might be one of the worst major-conference teams in the nation.
The Cardinals are still winless on the season and have fallen to teams such as Bellarmine, Wright State, and Appalachian State. In other words, this was a game that Tech was supposed to win and win big.
Give Adams’ team credit for taking care of business on that front but don’t let this game fool you into thinking that Tech has arrived. There is still plenty of room for growth for this rebuilt Red Raider squad. Now, if Tech blows out Ohio State in its final game in Maui, then we may be more inclined to start believing that Adams and his team are starting to figure things out.