A Turning Point? The Red Raiders, predictably, looked dead in the first half against Alabama. Rigor mortis set in early in the second half as the Crimson Tide led 53-33 with 13:56 to play. But somewhere en route to the morgue, the Tech corpse, Frankenstein-style, revived itself, and threw a dreadful fright into the visitors from Tuscaloosa.
The Red Raiders, relying on ferocious man-to-man defense, and some clutch shooting on the offensive end, shaved 18 points off the Alabama lead, before falling 66-62. That second half was easily the best stanza of basketball this Tech team has played, and it came against a solid SEC team that will probably make the NCAA tournament.
But Chris Walker and this team must make that comeback count. Hopefully having gained some confidence, the Red Raiders must now play an entire game as they played in the second half against Alabama. If they can figure out how to do that, and do it consistently, this team could make some waves.
The season is still young. And if the Alabama second half was this team's meshing point, Tech will have a better season that expected. But Arizona State this Saturday will be the acid test. If the Red Raiders falter in that one, the second half performance against the Crimson Tide will have been nothing but a false echo on the radar.
Bench-Shortening Time? Sometimes a team improves most dramatically when the coach, having sussed out who can contribute and who cannot, shortens his bench. Only productive players see the court. And minutes that hitherto went to unproductive players are no longer wasted. Chris Walker May be at this point.
The players who appear headed for pine time are Dejan Kravic, Trency Jackson and Dusty Hannahs.
Kravic doesn't have the lower body strength to stand in against physical bangers, nor the hand strength to control rebounds. Compounding matters, he is mechanical offensively in the box. Kader Tapsoba, who rebounds well and hits his free throws, is the better option.
Jackson is simply too much of a liability on the offensive end. His shot selection is not good, his shooting eye is questionable, and he does not create opportunities for his teammates. I like Toddrick Gotcher, who is a great hustler and who does not make mistakes on offense, to get Jackson's minutes.
Hannahs has a scholarship for one reason—to hit the deep shot. Right now he simply is not doing that. Ty Nurse shoots at least as well as Hannahs and has much more experience. He can help Tech win right now; I don't see how Hannahs can.
The Reason for the Comeback: I've been saying it all along, and the Alabama game was the ultimate proof, but the Red Raiders will live or die by their pressure defense. In the first half Tech got only two steals, scored only 27 points, and allowed the Crimson Tide to score 43. In the second, the Red Raiders tripled their steal total, scored 35 points, and held Alabama to 23 points. Steals not only generate fast break points for Tech, they blunt possessions by the opposition. This is critical for a Red Raider team that is not big enough to be intimidating on the back line, and does not have an array of pure shooters to put up 70-plus points consistently in the half court set.