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Kosmider: Red Raiders still searching for go-to playmaker

Posted: January 13, 2013 - 7:18pm  |  Updated: January 14, 2013 - 1:16am
Kansas' Elijah Johnson shoots over Texas Tech's Dejan Kravic during their NCAA college basketball game in Lubbock, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal,Stephen Spillman)  Stephen Spillman
Stephen Spillman
Kansas' Elijah Johnson shoots over Texas Tech's Dejan Kravic during their NCAA college basketball game in Lubbock, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal,Stephen Spillman)
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Texas Tech coach Chris Walker knew it wouldn’t be wise for his team to line up for a track meet against Kansas on Saturday.

The Jayhawks were too athletic, too experienced to contend with in the open court. So the Red Raiders slowed it down, and for much of the afternoon the strategy paid dividends.

“With this game plan,” Walker said, “we wanted to take our time, pace the game, work to our advantage. We didn’t want to get them in a run-and-gun game because that gives them more of an advantage as the game gets up and down.”

In their 60-46 loss, the Red Raiders succeeded in holding Kansas to its lowest scoring total since it tallied 59 in last year’s national championship game against Kentucky. That kind of defensive performance is something to build upon. If Tech can make life difficult for the Big 12 frontrunner, a team with four seniors and a future NBA lottery pick in its starting lineup, the Red Raiders have to believe they can duplicate the effort against other Big 12 foes.

But for its all its success defensively, Tech’s grind-it-out strategy on Saturday illustrated a major hole the team has to fill if it wants to be competitive in the league: The Red Raiders need a playmaker(s) to step up in crunch time.

Almost every Tech possession against Kansas took up the majority of the shot clock, and that was part of the aforementioned design for the Red Raiders. But as the last seconds ticked away, Tech players were too often looking for someone else to make a play, and forced shots — or, in couple cases, no shots — were often the result.

Good teams usually have a guy on that roster that wants the ball in that situation, a player who wants to put it on his shoulders to attack a defense and find a shot for himself or a teammate.

Does Tech have a player like that on its roster? It may be too early to tell. It is sometimes hard to remember players on Tech’s roster aren’t yet 15 games into their major-college careers. The chemistry will continue to grow as these players do.

Josh Gray, Tech’s freshman point guard, has shown glimpses of a being a playmaker who can create offense when it's otherwise hard to come by. He showed it in the early moments of Tech’s game against Baylor, when he drove the lane with the shot clock winding down for a pair of layups. And he made a handful of similar plays Saturday.

Fran Fraschilla, a former college coach and current ESPN analyst, said last week he believes Gray has the potential to become a star in the Big 12 as he becomes more accustomed to the demands of his position at this high level. At this stage, Walker doesn’t want to put too much on Gray’s plate — for good reason — and that means not placing the responsibility of making every play on his young shoulders.

That makes late-possession scoring another work in progress for this Tech team. But the sooner the Red Raiders can pinpoint players who want to take charge in have-to-have-a-bucket situations, the sooner they’ll have a chance to turn upset attempts like Saturday into victories.

To comment on this story:

nick.kosmider@lubbockonline.com

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george.watson@lubbockonline.com

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What is lackiing

Almost all of our players are one deminsional when it comes to offense. Gray can drive the ball, Hannahs is a spot-up jump shoother. Krav plays pretty gfood with his back to the basket, Tolbert is still primarily a slasher. Only Crocket seems to be multi-demensional. And of course we suck when it comes to the charity line.



I think we are improving. Except for Baylor, we seem to hold our own for significant stretches of the games. For a team so young, that shows promise. I hope the trend continues.

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So now we're hoping our FRESHMAN point guard is ...

... going to be our go-to guy down the stretch or every time the offense stalls. He hasn't learned how to be a Big 12 point guard yet. He has to handle the ball, distribute, play defense against the opposition ball-handler, and be our go-to scorer ?? I think it's time to give Coach Walker a deal so that he can show his recruiting ability and bring in some players! I like Gray, but I want more demands placed on our frontline, rather than expecting a rookie to carry the load.

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