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Postgame Notes: #13 Texas Tech at Kansas State

An ailing Shannon, Jr. is aided by teammates stepping up

(Photo cc: Scott Weaver, K-State Athletics)

In games earlier this season, Texas Tech essentially required both Terrence Shannon, Jr. and Mac McClung to score in double figures to have any chance of winning. However, the past week for the Red Raiders featured a rare off night for McClung followed by an injury-limited outing for Terrence, and yet both games were Texas Tech wins. Tech still getting the job done when its stars don’t shine is something Red Raider fans and Coach Beard have to love to see. While Kansas St is one of the weaker teams Tech will face the rest of the year, this had trap game written all over it. The Wildcats are much improved since the first matchup against Tech in the early days of 2021, although facing the gauntlet that is Big XII conference play doesn’t really reflect that. With Shannon, Jr. sitting out the entirety of the first half due to a hobbled ankle, KSU remained very much in the game and did their best to stay in it until late. The Tech players rose to the occasion, though, and in ways Kansas State likely didn’t expect.

It certainly appeared that the Wildcats were daring Tech players to shoot from the perimeter. Considering that this hasn’t been an area in which the Red Raiders have been particularly dangerous this year apart from when McClung and Kyler Edwards have open looks, the strategy was understandable. Unfortunately for KSU, Tech wasn’t shy about taking advantage of the opportunity and pulling the trigger from beyond the arc with great success. McClung, McCullar, Edwards, Nadolny, Smith, Agbo, and Burton all made three-pointers in this game. Nadolny got shafted and erroneously only credited for a two on the beautifully-drawn-up buried three in the closing seconds of the first half when all eyes were on McClung, but we see you, Clarence. While the stats list Tech as going 10-20 from the perimeter, the actual number appears to be 11-21. Regardless of whether Tech shot 50% or 52.4% from beyond the arc, it was a quality effort there for the Red Raiders in this one.

Special shoutouts to Kevin McCullar and Tyreek Smith for making the Wildcats pay for not respecting their shot. McCullar knocking them down isn’t all that surprising because he’s proven himself capable there at times, but Smith’s three was a nothing-but-net rainbow that broke a 32-32 tie and truly seemed to demoralize KSU. That shot would start a 12-1 run for Tech in the following minutes of action. If it’s not readily apparent that Tyreek is going to be a very good player for Tech, take note now. Smith also absolutely erased a dunk attempt at the rim early on to help set the tone. The continued great play of Marcus Santos-Silva forcing shared minutes is about the only reason Tyreek isn’t getting the attention he should, but Smith’s time will certainly come and he will be more than ready to be a star when it does. Speaking of Marcus Santos-Silva, Smith couldn’t have a much better player to watch and learn from. MSS had one of the plays of the game with a gorgeous assist to Shannon, Jr. It was the type of pass you typically only see from quality point guards who can anticipate what will happen on the floor before it does. It’s veteran play from Tech’s veteran player. Santos-Silva has been everything Tech could have hoped for because he does so many things well.

Tech’s other do-it-all player, Kevin McCullar, posted 15 points on the day. His play has elevated beyond the “glue guy” status he’s known for; he’s simply good at just about everything. Tech is in the post-glue era with Kevin and is all the better for it. The Red Raiders are 6-1 when Kevin scores in double-digits. McCullar had to work up to all systems go this season from the injury, but has fully resumed the form he did late last season when he was Tech’s best player on the floor. Mac McClung is hard to ignore in that discussion this year, though. There’s a temptation now to just expect him to score 20 points a game as if that’s not an incredible feat as Tech’s known go-to scorer, but Tech fans should truly enjoy this while Mac is here. Nationally, McClung is unjustly known mostly for his HS highlight-reel dunks. Not only is this a massive disservice to his overall offensive game, but Mac has also really made strides this year as a defender. McClung early in the game had a steal that led to an and-1 layup. Also, while Mac has had a few chasedown blocks this year, none were better than him elevating to cleanly swat a 7-footer. McClung is generously listed at 6’2″, but his hops are legendary and were put on display there. Oh, and he can still throw down dunks with the best of them, as he sealed Tech’s win with a run-out hammer.

Even considering all of the well-deserved accolades for the players above, the game ball goes to Kyler Edwards. It is a tactical error to allow a shooter of his caliber open looks, but Kyler is still the one getting open and hitting those shots. It cannot be overstated as to how much better this Red Raider team is when Edwards is scoring, and there’s a good amount of pressure put on him to do that as one of the best pure shooters on the roster. Often lost among the focus on only that part of his game is how good Kyler has been overall. He’s averaging over five rebounds per game this year, with eight in this game. Throw in three assists, a block, and a steal, and it adds up to a quality game. And yes, he’s still a shooter with a knack for hitting big shots in key moments. Tech went on a scoring drought midway through the second half that allowed KSU to close the gap to a two-possession game. Edwards promptly knocked down a three and a midrange two on successive possessions to put the game back to a nine-point lead, which was the beginning of the end for the Wildcats.

From a bench standpoint, Nadolny, Agbo, and Burton all played well. Burton in particular had a pair of good steals and was generally more active and controlled on the offensive end than usual. Jamarius has struggled at times, but is capable of giving good minutes as he did in this game and deserves credit for continuing to plug away and develop his play. Notably, Micah Peavy’s offensive slump continues and his minutes dropped in this game. Tyreek Smith appears to be the beneficiary when Peavy sits, as he saw more action in this game. Whether this was matchup-related for this game or a larger indication that Beard is losing patience with Peavy’s dwindling offensive output will be something to monitor in the coming weeks. It’s also possible that Smith is just earning more minutes through his great play. This was ultimately a good team win for the Red Raiders. With Shannon, Jr. not at 100% on the road against a KSU team hungry for a win, things could have easily gone differently. The Tech roster has become less dependent on the play of a few, which is a key development as the tournament draws nearer.

Tech has a big week upcoming with games against Baylor and West Virginia. The WVU game in particular should be one which Texas Tech will want to avenge, as some brazenly one-sided officiating decided the last game. Of note, Tech arguably got the better end of some calls for once against the Wildcats, but it didn’t appear to be on a level that determined the outcome. Bruce Weber might disagree there, as there is a rather comical clip making the social media rounds of a sideline tantrum of his from the game. Still, it bears mentioning these days when there’s a game where officials aren’t a glaring issue to this writer’s eye, so some praise is due where there’s often criticism. Unfortunately, the physical playing style of WVU and Baylor will likely test the competence of the crews assigned for the next week’s games, so hopefully the referees can be far more equitable and consistent in the way they call things than in the previous matchups. The Red Raiders will obviously need to bring their A-game against two talented teams, but also because they can’t let these games come down to a crucial whistle. Texas Tech is likely to enter the top ten in Monday’s rankings and will have a great chance to prove it belongs there.

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