Depth has not been a luxury afforded to Texas Tech this season.
It was evident during Saturday’s 66-64 loss to West Virginia, when the Red Raiders were without Clark Lammert (concussion), Daylen Robinson (coach’s decision) and, for most of the game, Ty Nurse (undisclosed injury). The already thin bench was threadbare by the end of the game with Jordan Tolbert, Dejan Kravic and Jaye Crockett, in that order, having fouled out.
That’s all to say the Red Raiders (9-13, 2-10 in Big 12), 14-point underdogs entering the game, couldn’t have come within inches of pulling off a memorable road win were it not for the collective guard effort that has too rarely manifested itself this season.
Jamal Williams and Dusty Hannahs hit four of their combined six 3-pointers in the second half, helping Tech find an offensive punch on the way to its highest scoring total in a road game this season.
In fact, Saturday marked just the third time in 12 conference games that the Red Raiders had two guards score in double figures — Hannahs, averaging 13 points the last two games, had 12 and Williams finished with 11 — and freshman point guard Josh Gray added a career-high eight assists.
Given the razor-thin margin of error with which the Red Raiders are saddled, they will need continued contributions for the two first-year players if they hope to add any more wins this season.
“They’re developing,” Tech coach Chris Walker said of the guards. “Every game is different. Every game is about matchups.”
Hannahs has had a predictably up-and-down freshman season as he acclimates to faster defenses who scout ways to temper his marksmanship. He has worked hard to add a quick first dribble to keep defenders honest, and Tech’s coaching staff has continued to search for ways to find him open looks. He had plenty of them on Saturday, knocking down 4 of 8 shots from 3-point range.
Williams, meanwhile, has been challenged by Walker to become more of a scorer. Described by Walker as “a Bruce Bowen-type player,” Williams takes pride in doing the dirty work a team needs — playing solid defense, making hustle plays, providing energy. But as much as Tech has struggled to score, and as poorly as it has shot the basketball, the Red Raiders need Williams to be assertive on the offensive end, as he was Saturday while playing in front of a handful of family members who made the five-hour drive from Brooklyn to watch him play.
“He plays a big role in this program,” Gray said of Williams. “If he’s having a good night, we’re having a good night. He played big.”
The Red Raiders could certainly use the offense going forward.
“We need (Williams) to bring the energy and just keep hitting shots,” Crockett said. “Every game he has a pretty good shot, so we just need him to be consistent on offense and defense.”
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