With top-ranked Houston coming off of back-to-back losses last week, most feared that the Texas Tech basketball team would get the Cougars' best effort on Wednesday night in Houston and that's exactly what happened. Unfortunately, the Red Raiders were unable to match their opponent's skill and physicality in a 77-54 loss.
The game, which Tech only led briefly in the first half, dropped Grant McCasland's team to 14-3 overall and 3-1 in conference play. Fortunately, Tech still remains tied for first place in the Big 12 race. However, the Red Raiders didn't play like a conference contender on Wednesday. Here are some quick thoughts on what transpired a the Fertitta Center.
Texas Tech allows another guard to go nuts
Entering Big 12 play, we discussed whether or not the Red Raiders were going to be able to stop the elite guards they would see in Big 12 play from going nuts against them. That was a problem in this game with Jamal Shead leading the Cougars with 29 points, almost 18 more than his season average.
It was a career-high for the 6-foot-1, 200-pound guard who was on fire going 12-16 from the floor and who saw little resistance from the Red Raider guards. Scoring 37.6% of his team's points, he was the difference in the game.
In fact, he was one of only two Cougars in double digits to go along with forward J'Wan Roberts, who had 12. Meanwhile, Houston's leading scorer, former Baylor guard L.J. Cryer, had only eight points on 3-8 shooting, seven points below his season average.
Meanwhile, Tech's top two guards, Pop Isaacs and Joe Toussaint, were unable to carry their team on offense. Combined, that duo went just 6-19 combined from the floor for 21 points. That included a 4-15 performance from Isaacs who was the focus of Houston's defensive efforts and who managed only 12 points.
It was clear that the strength of the Houston guards, especially Shead, was a problem for the smallish Tech guards. He was able to get into the paint, or anywhere else he wanted to go with the ball and score easily by overpowering Isaacs, whom he outweighs by 30 pounds, or Toussaint, whom he has 10 pounds on. Tech will have to address how to counter physical guards because Shead won't be the last that they see this year.
Texas Tech loses the turnover battle for the first time in Big 12 play
Houston is the best defensive team in the nation by almost any metric and they looked the part on Wednesday. It often looked like the Cougars were playing with six players on the floor as Tech tried to operate in the half-court.
What was telling was that Houston forced 14 turnovers from the Red Raiders. Meanwhile, the Cougars gave the ball away just six times.
Coming into the game, Tech had given the ball away no more than nine times in any conference matchup. What's more, they had committed just 23 total turnovers in their three Big 12 games prior to Wednesday. Both Isaacs and Toussaint had four giveaways to lead the team, a stat that was indicative of the struggles of both players.
Houston dominates Texas Tech in the paint
To understand just how dominant and physical Houston was, we need to look no further than the paint where the Cougars outscored the Red Raiders 40-8. That's the most telling statistic of the evening.
The Red Raiders are a guard-oriented team that does rely heavily on the 3-point shot. Wednesday, they attempted 27, ten more than Houston.
But when a guard like Toussaint or Isaacs tried to get into the lane, they were usually swarmed and forced into a turnover or a panicked pass to a teammate in the backcourt. What's more, Tech's leading scorer, Kerwin Walton, scored all 18 of his points on 3-point shots.
Conversely, Shead attempted only three shots from beyond the arc. His night was far easier because of how close his looks were to the rim while Tech's guards were constantly forced away from the paint and forced into tougher shots, which often didn't fall.
Meanwhile, Warren Washington was only 2-5 from the floor in what was one of his least impactful games of the season. Even Tech's lone 7-footer was bothered by the size and strength of the Cougars who were able to push him off of his spots in the paint.
The difference in points in the paint was the perfect microcosm of the game as Houston bullied its way to the rim on one end of the floor while keeping Tech from being able to get anything going near the rim on the other end. One has to wonder if future opponents will attempt to attack the Red Raiders in a similar manner moving forward.