Thursday in Lubbock, the Texas Tech basketball team played a matinee against UTA and it appeared as if the Red Raiders were in a giving holiday mood. Handing out turnovers like mall Santas give out candy canes, Grant McCasland's team allowed the Mavericks to cut what was at one time a 20-point second-half lead to six points in the middle of the half before seeing the home team hang on for a 77-66 win.
Fortunately, Tech made enough plays down the stretch to avoid the upset bid and head into a week-long break on a positive note. Joe Toussaint led the way with 19 points while Pop Isaacs chipped in 18.
Tech now sits at 9-2 on the year and 6-0 at home. Still, there are plenty of areas that need to be improved upon with conference play looming early next month.
Let's dive into the box score to see what went right for McCasland's team and what went wrong. Unfortunately, we have to start with the latter category because turnovers almost cost the Red Raiders a win.
Texas Tech was uncharacteristically sloppy with the basketball
Athletes are creatures of habit. They crave routines. So whenever a game arises at a weird time, such as a weekday afternoon, it is fair to wonder if there will be some unexpected hiccups and that's what happened to the Red Raiders on Thursday.
Coming into the day, Tech was averaging just 11 turnovers per game. But against UTA, the Red Raiders gave the ball away 17 times. Fortunately, they lived to tell the tale.
The problem is that your two lead guards, Isaacs and Toussaint were uncharacteristically charitable with the ball. Between them, that duo entered this game averaging 4.3 assists. Thursday, they gave the ball away seven times combined. That's not going to be a formula that Tech wants to see repeat very often.
Also, starting wing Darrion Williams had a team-high five turnovers. That's 3.3 more than his per-game average this year.
In the past seven games, a stretch that began with Tech's trip to the Bahamas to compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Red Raiders had given up only 9.7 turnovers per game. So what happened on Thursday?
Perhaps it was a lack of focus with the players leaving town after the game to go home for Christmas. Perhaps it was the aggressive nature of the UTA defense. Or, perhaps it was simply an anomalous occurence.
Whatever the case, Tech can't have that type of showing come Big 12 play. The Red Raiders have typically been excellent when it comes to protecting the ball thanks in large part to Toussaint and Isaacs handling it for most of the critical moments. Both players were sloppy on Thursday but both have shown an ability to handle the rock and that is why we shouldn't freak out over one poor showing right before a holiday.