February 10, 2008

Signals from the hardwood

Zeno Picks It up: While still not vintage Zeno, Martin's performance against the Nebraska Cornhuskers was the best we've seen from him in some time. He got to the tin a time or two with classic Zeno cuts, but more impressive was his shooting. Zeno was deadly with his jumpers from 14 to 18 feet, and even rattled home a turnaround J. Now if the Red Raiders can get a few assists from the senior, they'll be in bidniss. Zeno had only one assist against the Huskers and committed two turnovers.

From Straitlaced to Loosey Goosey: Under Bob Knight, particularly this season, the Red Raiders seemed like an uptight even repressed bunch. They showed little emotion and gave no indication whatsoever of having fun on the court. Imagine five Frank Burnses with pituitary conditions running around in shorts and tennis shoes. Now against the Huskers, Tech wasn't exactly the cast of the Benny Hill show, but they certainly seemed more relaxed and comfortable than before.

The classic case in point was freshman forward Mike Singletary. Early in the game he stared down the Nebraska crowd after converting a fast-break bucket, and later gave the shush sign to the crowd when Tech was in the midst of its abortive comeback effort. Such displays of showmanship would never have been seen under Coach Bob. Coach Pat, however, seems to have loosened the emotional shackles a bit. And the players look relieved.

V2 Rocket Launcher: Another obvious change from the ways of the ancien regime was evident in the play of Alan Voskuil. The guard from L.D. Bell fired up 15 shots and made only five. Of those 15 attempts, fully seven were from three-point range. Can you imagine Coach Bob allowing a player to hoist up that many threes when he wasn't making them? Can you imagine Voskuil or any other Red Raider being courageous and audacious enough to test those shooting waters with Coach Bob on the bench? They'd just assume rassle a malnourished grizzly bear or Armen Williams. Coach Pat, on the other hand, is more willing to give the green light and is much slower with the hook. In some games-such as Nebraska-that may hurt the Red Raiders. But my guess is that Coach Pat's lenience will ultimately pay more dividends than create deficits.

Shaq of the North? Nebraska center Aleks Maric is a nice player. And he's obviously too big and skilled for the Red Raiders to handle. That said, Texas Tech made him look like Shaq O'Neill, Bob Lanier or Bill Russell. And trust me, he ain't. Maric is a big guy who knows how to get post position, hit layups and free throws. When he faces professional competition, however, he will find that interior defense is generally better than what he saw from Damir Suljagic, Trevor Cook, Esmir Rizvic and Ricardo DeBem.

Mike the Merciless: You've just gotta love Mike Singletary's work on the glass. And particularly the offensive glass. He gives full effort for every carom, knows how to use his body, and is very aggressive. The six-foot-five bruiser pulled down 10 rebounds against the Huskers to lead the Red Raiders in that category. Esmir Rizvic, who stands seven inches taller than Singletary yet snagged only three rebounds, could learn a few things from watching Singletary's effort and aggression. Then he should copy it.

Pell Mell Suits the Red Raiders: Midway through the second half Coach Pat applied full-court pressure, something almost never seen under Coach Bob. And it was about this time that the Red Raiders began whittling an 18-point lead down to seven. Frankly, the Red Raiders looked pretty good playing this frenetic, trapping, up-tempo type of game. They may not be the '84 Georgetown Hoyas, the Arkansas Razorbacks of Nolan Richardson, or Bob Huggins' vintage Cincinnati teams, but Tech certainly has the personnel to play a fast-paced game. I suspect that Coach Pat will be pleased when viewing the tape of this portion of the game, and I think he'll turn to the pressure and the quick tempo more readily in the future.


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