Photo CC: Schuyler Dixon The Associated Press
Welcome back, TJ. Shannon, Jr. looked about 95%, as there was a play early on that he would normally throw down for a dunk that instead went for a layup attempt, but 95% Shannon, Jr. is still quite good. His final line of 15 points, 7 boards, 2 assists, and 2 steals is the kind of return that Chris Beard and Tech fans had to love to see. There is one noteworthy development with Terrence, though, and it’s that he doesn’t appear to want to pull the trigger behind the arc this season. Shannon, Jr. had several open looks at threes in this game but only attempted one. Even that attempt was a begrudging one, as he passed on the initial look and only put it up when his defender flew by. This could be injury-related, but it’s worth monitoring.
Another unfortunate development of late has been Mac McClung’s slump in shooting from the field. Mac had a scoreless first half, as the bucket just isn’t being friendly to him of late. The great news is that Mac proved he doesn’t have to light up the scoreboard to be a major factor, as he put together an assist highlight reel in this one. McClung was making no-look passes look easy, had an incredible behind-the-back save, and somehow pulled off a steal on the press that left him with his back to Tech’s basket where he knew he had a pair of teammates on a breakaway, and flipped it back over himself right to Peavy for an easy dunk. Mac would get to see the ball go through the basket three times in the second half, and he remains an offensive threat. Tech is a better team when he’s on the floor whether he’s scoring or not, but the shots will also inevitably start falling for him at some point. Heading into a big game against the Jayhawks, it would have been nice for Mac to be coming off a big scoring day, but Mac and Tech fans have to feel good about him having a strong game overall.
Marcus Santos-Silva had his best game as a Red Raider. He absolutely dominated the glass. The box score only had him with 6 rebounds, but he deserves credit for over a dozen boards. MSS has mastered the tip-out to teammates. It was a clinic, and Tech got multiple second and third chances on offense in addition to the start of several transition buckets. In terms of a value-added play, bonus possessions are about as good as it gets. Oh, and Santos-Silva also scored 12 points on 5-6 shooting. The 2-5 shooting from the stripe and a bit of foul trouble are about the only marks against him in this one, but it was a terrific effort for him overall. Beard seemed to just say “job well done” and let Smith and Goldin serve as the bigs for the remainder of the game after MSS picked up his fourth foul, and it was some well-earned rest for Marcus.
Tyreek Smith largely took advantage of the minutes and put together a solid outing. Goldin continues to struggle on the defensive end, as TAMU-CC immediately started driving at him with great success. Vladislav too often turns his hips and allows driving players to get shots near the basket and/or create a contact to get to the foul line. Goldin has to start using his size to face down opponents near the rim, and Chris Beard took a timeout to absolutely rip into him for exactly that. (Worth noting: the game had been completely decided by this point, but Beard never stops coaching hard.) Vladislav did manage a few MSS-Esque tip-outs and continues to be a good shooter, so there’s still plenty to like in his potential. Beard was wise to get both Smith and Goldin some more minutes for their development, but as of now, Smith is the one who looks far more capable of putting in quality minutes when needed.
Speaking of quality minutes, Micah Peavy continues to be the definition of that. Peavy’s mid-range game is an absolute joy, as anyone who questions his range immediately regrets it when he softly drops it through the net. He threw down several alley-oop dunks in this game as well. Kevin McCullar continues to be missed, but Micah has more than capably stepped up to be a similar glue guy in his absence. Meanwhile, his Freshman classmate Nimari Burnett has thankfully shaken the turnover bug, which is the biggest thing for his development. Burnett didn’t have a great shooting outing, but is fantastic on the defensive end and is proving to be one of the few reliable free throw shooters on the team.
Kyler Edwards is playing as comfortably as he did in his breakout Freshman year. Edwards has really stepped up his game in the little things. Kyler is rebounding better than he ever has and happily looks like an upperclassman leader. McClung’s presence arguably deserves some of the credit in opening things up, but Kyler is much more consistent this year as Tech needs him to be. Jamarius Burton had another quiet day, and while he does many things well, he has gotten plenty of minutes and should perhaps be doing more with them. He’s enjoying a sixth man role right now, but that likely changes once McCullar returns. Agbo and Benson also are falling into purely backup roles, and Avery’s continued struggles at the line hurt his value.
However, there was another backup who merits a shout-out this week, and that is Clarence Nadolny. Clarence absolutely buried a pair of threes and was the victim of two poor calls in being whistled for two fouls that certainly appeared to be hustle steals. The whistles looked more related to the game turning into a blowout and the officials throwing TAMU-CC a bone than anything. Regardless, Clarence looked great out there and played like he wanted more minutes. More efforts like this one will earn those minutes for him, and it’s great to see some fire from him.
Overall, it was a quality effort leading into conference play. The game never felt in any doubt. Tech employed the press to tremendous success, forcing a number of turnovers and run-out baskets. The offensive start was a little slow, and Mac’s shooting slump remains a concern. Heading into conference play, those are the biggest question marks along with the struggles from the free-throw line. Still, McClung creates even when he doesn’t score, MSS is proving to be a force inside, Shannon, Jr. is a star, Edwards is playing the best basketball of his Tech career, Peavy and Burnett are both now trustworthy starters, and Smith and Burton at a minimum can be counted on to put in solid minutes as well. No team anywhere is playing better defense, and the roster cohesiveness is well-ahead of schedule. There’s a lot to like about Tech’s chances in a huge opener against Kansas, and even more so if McCullar returns. Chris Beard’s team appears to be rounding into form early and has a chance soon to send that message to the rest of the league.