As Texas Tech players replayed the anguish of an overtime loss to Texas on Saturday, their minds kept drifting back to the free-throw line.
It’s a place the Red Raiders calmly knock down shots with regularity in practice, but during a game in which every point was vital, they watched 17 shots clank of the rim on the way to a 71-69 defeat.
They began wondering if there was something supernatural at play.
“Have you seen that movie ‘The 6th Man’?” said Tech forward Jordan Tolbert, referring to the 1997 film in which the ghost of a deceased college basketball player helps his former team in various ways, like sitting on the rim and swatting opponents’ shots away. “We said there was someone up there blocking the shots.”
Maybe there could have been something to that theory had Tech been playing Oklahoma State, whose coach, Travis Ford, had a small role in the movie. But the Red Raiders know, of course, it was up to them to knock those shots down, and there were no excuses being made less than 48 hours after the heartbreaking defeat.
“When I was young,” Tech forward Jaye Crockett said, “my grandma would always tell me you’re not happy until someone gets hurt. Basically what that means is you don’t realize how important something is until something bad happens. When we’re at practice, coach (Chris) Walker always tells us to stop talking when we’re at the free-throw line. We have to focus more in practice. Practice makes perfect, so we have to take it more serious.”
In Tech’s 10 victories this season, it has shot 70.5 percent from the free-throw line (163 of 231). In 19 losses, the Red Raiders have converted only 63.1 percent of their attempts (230 of 364). Delving further, Tech has struggled even more in close games. The Red Raiders played in six games during the regular season decided by less than nine points. In those contests they shot just 57.7 percent from the line (86 of 149).
“I don’t know what it was,” Tolbert, whose average at the line has dipped from 71.9 percent as a freshman to 56.2 percent this year, said of Saturday’s woes. “It was pretty contagious.”
Needless to say, free-throw shooting is a major area of concern as Tech approaches the Big 12 tournament, beginning with its first-round game against West Virginia at 6 p.m. Wednesday inside the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. The Red Raiders, who are 0-2 against the Mountaineers this season, said Monday they are taking a nothing-to-lose approach into what will likely be their lone postseason experience this season.
But if Tech is to pull off any upsets in win-or-go-home tournament, it isn’t going to do so in blowout fashion. The reality is the Red Raiders will have to supply the same impressive energy they displayed against Texas just to be in games.
The team just hopes it has a chance to redeem itself after letting one it had in its grasp slip away.
“We just want to prove we can make some noise in the tournament,” Tolbert said.
by Big 12 nod
Texas Tech junior forward Jaye Crockett said “it felt great” to be named an all-Big 12 honorable mention on Sunday, as selected by the league’s coaches.
“To be recognized,” he said, “and for someone to tell you by voting that you’ve done something that you should be rewarded for, it feels good.”
Crockett led the team in both scoring (11.9) and rebounding (6.8) and was one of the most productive sixth men in the country.
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