Texas Tech basketball: Red Raiders fire on all cylinders against HCU

Dec 21, 2022; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Pop Isaacs (2) drives the ball against Houston Christian Huskies guard Brycen Long (3) in the second half at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2022; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Pop Isaacs (2) drives the ball against Houston Christian Huskies guard Brycen Long (3) in the second half at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been able to take in a Texas Tech sporting event or cover anything to do with the Red Raiders.  Life has dealt me some unexpected twists and turns recently and I have had to take some time away from the computer.

Fortunately, that all appears to be behind me and I was able to take in Wednesday’s blowout win over Houston Christian (formerly Houston Baptist).  Here are some quick thoughts on the 111-67 Red Raider romp.

The offense is picking up steam

There’s no way to deny that the last two games that Tech has played have been against teams that were woefully overmatched from a talent perspective.  However, it is refreshing to see Mark Adams’ team finally fire on all cylinders on the offensive end of the court, regardless of who the opponents have been.

In the last two games, Tech has averaged 106.5 points per game.  That’s the type of offensive showing that should be expected against woefully outmanned opponents.

Each of the last two outings has seen the Red Raiders shoot over 55% from the floor.  Additionally, the team has hit 22 of its 50 (44%) shots from 3-point range in those contests.

Prior to that, the Red Raiders were merely an average offensive team at best, even when playing mid and low-major teams.  While no one is going to hang any banners for putting up triple digits against Jackson State or Houston Christian, sometimes a prolific scoring effort, even against awful teams, can jumpstart a team’s offensive attack.  Here’s hoping that is exactly what has happened for Tech.

Batcho returns

For the first time since Tech squared off with Nicholls on November 30th, the Red Raiders actually had their preferred starting five available.  That was because sophomore forward, Daniel Batcho, made his return to the court after a two-game absence due to a sprained ankle.

While Batcho didn’t start the game, he did play 22 minutes during which he put up 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.  It was a nice showing for who could be argued is Tech’s most irreplaceable player.  But was it necessary?

With Big 12 play set to begin in just a week and a half, it was risky to put Batcho back into the fray and risk him tweaking that ankle again.  Tech certainly didn’t need him on the floor to win this game so it might have been wiser to sit him again and bring him back for the final pre-Big 12 tuneup on December 27.

Fortunately, Batcho was unscathed in his return to the floor.  But every time he left his feet, I couldn’t help but wince at the thought of him possibly reaggravating his injury so close to the start of conference play.

A sign of life from Walton?

I won’t deny that I’m desperate to see signs of life from D’Maurion Williams and Kerwin Walton, two transfers that Tech was heavily counting on to provide offensive firepower off of the bench this year.  So far, both have been massive disappointments but each has given us glimpses of hope over the last two games.

Wednesday, it was Walton who made his presence known.  In 11 minutes of action, he scored eight points while draining two shots from beyond the arc, something that this team could desperately use more off from its reserves.

It was the second-straight 8-point showing from Walton, a number that ties his season-opening performance against Northwestern State for his highest scoring output as a Red Raider.  Could this be a sign that the North Carolina transfer is starting to find his place in this team’s rotation?

Hopefully so.  That’s because it would do wonders for the Red Raiders if either Walton or Williams could be a consistent outside shooter off of the bench.

Make no mistake, their struggles have been as much about the defensive end of the floor as the offensive end and both will have to play the type of defense that Adams demands if they are to be regular members of the rotation.  But if either Walton or Williams (who scored a team-high 17 points on Saturday against Jackson State but who scored only two points against Houston Christian) can give this team even the slightest bit of production in Big 12 play, it could be just the lift that Tech needs.

What is this team?

While watching this bloodletting, I couldn’t help but reflect on what we’ve seen from this team over the course of eleven games and the conclusion that I came to is that it is impossible to know what type of team we have on our hands.  That’s a bit frightening given that Big 12 play is just one game away.

The simple truth is that this year’s schedule has been a farce outside of the trip to Maui.  Tech has faced only one ranked team thus far (Creighton) and has yet to step foot in another team’s home arena.

Additionally, close calls against mediocre-at-best teams such as Georgetown, Nicholls, and Eastern Washington have given us reason to worry.  Now, do these last two blowout wins mean that this team is starting to turn a corner, or are they simply the result of playing teams that have no pulse?

When Big 12 play begins, Tech will be the biggest enigma in the conference.  Having not played a quality major-conference opponent since the week of Thanksgiving, no one knows that the Red Raiders are, even as the calendar approaches 2023.  Wednesday’s bullying of HCU did nothing to change that nor will next week’s showdown with South Carolina State.  That’s why the game at TCU on New Year’s Eve will be one of the most intriguing conference openers in years.