FORT WORTH, Texas — The Texas Tech offense that looked so smooth and potent in its first two games of the season was nowhere to be found in a 64-53 loss to No. 17 Houston Sunday.
Instead, the No. 14 Red Raiders looked frustrated and flustered, throwing inaccurate passes and taking out-of-rhythm shots.
Texas Tech turned it over 12 times in the first half, compared to just seven made field goals. Houston used a 21-4 first half run which spanned more than 10 minutes to take a commanding lead that it would not relinquish.
In short, Texas Tech just did not play a good game, particularly on offense.
“You’re not going to beat Houston, which is basically a Big 12-type team without playing well,” Chris Beard said. “And tonight we can go down the roster and I don’t know if anybody really played their A game.”
The Red Raiders went down by as many as 20 points in the second half, but used a full court press to battle back into the game. However, it was too little, too late. They never got into a rhythm offensively, wasting a defensive performance that held the Cougars without a field goal for the games final 12:27.
The Cougars were aggressive on defense all evening, pressuring Texas Tech ball handlers on all areas of the floor.
Marcus Santos-Silva struggled with double teams, turning it over four times in the first half. He was on the bench for Texas Tech’s late-game run.
TTU’s perimeter players didn’t have it any easier. They had difficulty beating Houston’s feisty defenders off the dribble, leading to contested shots and wild kick-out passes back to the perimeter.
“Give Houston credit,” Beard said. “The reason we didn’t have that balance of scoring is Houston. The reason we had too many turnovers is Houston. The reason we fouled too much late in possessions was Houston.”
Mac McClung, who shot the ball well in Texas Tech’s first two games, went cold from outside. He missed all six of his 3-point attempts. Still, McClung got to the free throw line 14 times and led Texas Tech in points with 16.
The Red Raiders even struggled from the free throw line. Micah Peavy and Kyler Edwards both shot 0-3 from there.
On the other end, the game seemed to move slower for Houston’s offense. The Cougars punished late closeouts, knocking down eight 3-pointers, and shot comfortable mid-range shots.
Even when they did miss shots, it seemed like a teammate was always there to rebound it. Kelvin Sampson’s bunch had the best rebounding margin in college basketball coming into the game, and they proved why with 13 offensive rebounds Sunday.
“That’s definitely Houston’s identity,” Beard said. “You’re playing against one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country so you’re not going to have a perfect night there.”
The Red Raiders’ inability to get stops prevented them from embarking on a run for the early part of the second half. Houston seemed to match every Red Raider bucket with one of its own.
Micah Peavy’s dunk was countered with a DeJon Jarreau 3. Chibuzo Agbo came off the bench and hit a 3, but Jarreau hit a jumper 25 seconds later.
Peavy was a rare bright spot in the loss. He was second on the team in points with 12, and despite it being just his third collegiate game, he clearly looked like he belonged in a high-level, intense affair.
Down 15 with 9:30 left, Chris Beard went to his press. The defense slowed down Houston’s offense, forcing stops on five possessions in a row.
On the other end, Houston’s defense became too physical. The Cougars put McClung on the free throw line with non-shooting fouls twice in a row, gifting the Red Raiders four points. A Peavy dunk with 7:16 left cut the Houston lead to single digits for the first time since early in the first half.
Still, Texas Tech could not muster enough offense to complete the comeback. The Red Raiders were able to make up ground at the free throw line, but failed to produce baskets in the half court. Two transition dunks were Texas Tech’s only field goals between 11:00 and 2:39.
There are a lot of new pieces on this Texas Tech team, and it will take time for them to gel. Beard is still figuring who can play, and the best way to use those that can.
Sunday, the Red Raiders went up against a Houston team that played tougher and with more cohesion than they did. There’s plenty of talent on the team, but work to do before it reaches its final form.