Photo CC: AP/ Justin Rex
The Red Raiders didn’t exactly come out of the locker room ready to dominate, but once they got it together, it was all systems go in a beautiful display of team basketball that perfectly exemplified Chris Beard’s coaching style. The level of hustle was off the charts, and it shows up in the box score. As a team, Texas Tech forced 30 turnovers, had 38 rebounds, 16 assists, 13 steals, and 7 blocks. While Grambling was obviously overmatched in talent, those numbers are still flat-out impressive and indicative of the kind of basketball that will win a lot of games.
This was the first game in which Mac McClung “struggled”, if 12 points, 3 assists, a steal, and a rebound counts as a struggle. That tells you how good Mac has been thus far, and he very nearly pulled off a highlight-reel behind-the-back driving layup had he not been fouled hard in the process. His lower numbers in this game were simply a product of how well several of his teammates played. Marcus Santos-Silva must have been looking over his shoulder at Tyreek Smith after a few tough games of late, as he was an absolute force against the Tigers. Grambling didn’t have an answer for him at either end of the floor, and it was nice to see MSS return to form. Still, Marcus wasn’t even the best player on the court. That honor goes to Kyler Edwards, who played arguably his best game as a Red Raider. It was certainly his most complete game. 13 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks are player of the week stuff. As one of the team’s veterans, Edwards stepping up with a performance like this is extremely welcome news for the Red Raiders.
However, it wasn’t just a day for elder statesmen to shine, as this looked like the breakout game for young Nimari Burnett. 12 points, a team-high 6 steals, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and most importantly, zero turnovers were the level of play many were waiting to see from Burnett. In a matter of a few games, Nimari has grown from looking like somewhat of a liability as a raw Freshman committing sloppy turnovers to a disruptive presence forcing turnovers. It was seemingly only a matter of time before his talent paired with Beard’s coaching began to pay dividends, and the light appears to be coming on. Nimari will continue to grow and likely isn’t done with some occasional lapses, but Red Raider fans have to love what they saw from Burnett on Sunday and what it seems to show for his future.
Micah Peavy had a bit of a quiet game relative to his hot start, but much like McClung, it was more related to teammates having big days than him having a poor performance. Jamarius Burton had his best game in a Red Raider uniform, and the decision to not redshirt is looking like a good one. Burton is tallying significant minutes and has looked good overall in those minutes, but it was a welcome development to see him contribute more on the scoring end this game than he had previously. The same goes for Vladislav Goldin, who is showing more promise than most expected. While Goldin still needs to be more aggressive around the basket, he notched his first block and had an emphatic dunk on a fast break. Goldin is likely to see his minutes drop off come conference play by necessity, but him getting some playing time early and doing well with it is good news that will pay off in the future.
The scariest moment of the game was when Terrence Shannon, Jr. went down with an ankle injury and was helped off of the court without putting any weight on the ankle. Reports are that it is far less severe of an injury than it initially looked to be, but it seems likely that Shannon, Jr. will miss some or most of the rest of non-conference play at the very least to heal. This could mean some more minutes for players like Chibuzo Agbo and Avery Benson. Agbo carried on the chase-down block streak Benson started in the prior game with a great effort and entered multiple categories of the box score in his eleven minutes. Agbo is likely to be the biggest beneficiary of the Ntambwe departure and has looked more than capable thus far. Avery Benson simply plays his heart out and probably deserves more meaningful minutes. In Shannon Jr.’s absence, Avery will hopefully rewarded with playing time early in some of the next few games. To round out the roster, Tyreek Smith had a quiet outing as MSS and Goldin stole the show during this one, and Clarence Nadolny buried a late three and managed to limit the fouls against Grambling.
This was Chris Beard basketball at its finest. The teamwork was on full display all over the court, the defense was stifling, the effort was extremely high, and the entire roster contributed in varying ways to show off its depth. Also, in a very welcome development, the team shot 21-27 (77.8%) from the free-throw line after some unimpressive showings there. Doubling up an opponent on the scoreboard is quite a feat, and the Red Raiders looked unquestionably elite in the second half of the game. There’s a temptation to minimize blowout wins like this as just a result that should occur, but a look around the CBB landscape serves as a reminder that it isn’t always so easy. KU was nearly knocked off by a winless North Dakota St team. Kentucky already has a pair of double-digit losses to unranked teams. Wisconsin fell to an unranked Marquette team. Villanova lost to an unranked Va Tech squad. Virginia lost to San Francisco. What should happen doesn’t always happen, so Texas Tech deserves credit for taking care of business and looking the part, even in games where they’re a heavy favorite such as this.