Texas Tech basketball: Red Raiders get dose of reality at Baylor

Feb 4, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Jaylon Tyson (20) looks to drive past Baylor Bears guard Adam Flagler (10) during the first half at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 4, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Jaylon Tyson (20) looks to drive past Baylor Bears guard Adam Flagler (10) during the first half at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports /

After a brief two-game winning streak, one that included a program-record 23-point comeback against Iowa State on Monday night, the Texas Tech basketball team came back down to Earth on Saturday faster than a Chinese spy balloon after encountering a U.S. fighter jet.  Unfortunately, the Bears’ 89-62 dismantling of the Red Raiders in Waco not only dropped Tech to 1-9 in the Big 12 but more importantly, it served as a harsh reminder of the unfortunate reality that this team must face, the 2022-23 season is almost guaranteed to be nothing more than a dumpster fire.

What was just a 38-34 Baylor lead after the first half quickly swelled to a 14-point lead by the 10-minute mark of the second half and this time, there was no miraculous rally in Mark Adams’ team.  So, in the end, Tech is forced to face the reality that Baylor (as is the case with many of the other teams in the conference this season as well) simply has another gear that the Red Raiders can’t match, even when the team is at full health, which it wasn’t on Saturday with Pop Isaacs and Fardaws Aimaq out again.

Tech simply doesn’t have any margin for error on either end of the floor.  The inability to hit 3-point shots combined with the lack of players who can manufacture offense off of the dribble leaves this team stuck in neutral for extended stretches during which opposing teams seem to be able to extend their lead because the Tech defense seems intent on helping players from other schools get wide-open 3-point shots, opportunities that usually end up leading to doom.

Tech just can’t seem to survive its mistakes this year.  Instead, it almost requires a perfect effort for this team to even hang around against a good team as was the case in the first half when the Red Raiders shot 50% from the field but still trailed.

A perfect example of this sad reality was a game-changing sequence early in the second half. With Baylor leading by just six points, 46-40, at the 15:41 mark after a Jaylon Tyson score to keep his team within striking distance, freshman Elijah Fisher grabbed an important defensive rebound as it seemed that Tech would have a shot at cutting into the Bears’ lead.

However, Fisher immediately threw the ball away as he tried to send an outlet pass to a teammate without seeing the lurking defender, Keyonte George, who would come up with the easy steal.  Still, Tech seemed to have survived this gaffe as the Bears would fail to score on the ensuing possession despite four shots from the floor.

Unfortunately, though,  another freshman, Lamar Washington, would turn around and throw the ball out of bounds while trying to lob a pass to Jaylon Tyson from half-court on a fast break.  On the ensuing Baylor possession, the Bears would score off of another offensive rebound to push the lead to eight points.  Then, a Daniel Batcho turnover would lead to another Baylor layup, which would include an and-1 opportunity.  By the time the dust had settled, the Red Raiders would find themselves down 11 points and the Baylor avalanche would be set in motion thanks to some unthinkable mistakes by the Red Raiders.

That’s just what this season’s team is, though, a collection of limited and flawed players, many of whom are mistake-prone.  And spare us the talk about the youth of this team, something that seems to be this team’s greatest excuse.  We are now into February and the careless turnovers and stupid decisions from the freshmen on the roster should be decreasing.  They aren’t and this team isn’t improving as a result.

Sure, Baylor is an excellent team, one that should dismantle a team as bad as Tech.  But in the last five Big 12 games, Tech has been outscored by 67 points outside of the final 12 minutes of the Iowa State game in Lubbock, a collapse that was as much about the incompetence of the Cyclones on that night as it was about the Red Raiders.

By failing to put up any fight in the second half in Waco, Adams and his team failed to capitalize on any potential momentum that could have carried over from Monday’s historic rally and instead, what was put forth by the guys in scarlet and black was a painful reminder that this season simply isn’t going to turn around.

Sure, Tech will win another conference game or two.  But unfortunately, the final month of this season will be spent playing the role of spoiler as there just aren’t enough wins available for Tech to climb its way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. After all, just to get to .500 in league play, it would require the Red Raiders to win out until the start of the conference tournament.  With games still to be played at Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma that’s nothing more than a pipe dream.

What remains as motivation for this team is just trying to build for the future (something that is far less important in the world of the transfer portal than it would have been ten years ago) and perhaps saving the head coach’s job.   Yup, that’s right, we are back on Mark Adams hot seat watch.

While the wins over LSU and Iowa State temporarily cooled the fire growing around Adams in his second season on the job, they won’t be enough to justify his return for a third season if Tech fails to show more fight than it did in Waco.  Thus, every game is now a referendum on this coaching staff instead of an opportunity to build a tournament resume.  That’s the reality that last-place teams must grapple with and unfortunately, we got a painful reminder on Saturday that, despite the recent respite from this season’s downward spiral, this is a last-place caliber team that we have on our hands this season.