This is what you get when you have a team full of freshmen stars. Some major highs (beating KU, blowing out A&M, winning on the road at OU), and some frustrating lows (losing at Mizzou and Tech). All the worse, every time we jump in front of the conference standings, something like this happens.
First, a lot of credit to Texas Tech and Pat Knight. The Red Raiders came out prepared, came out with a plan, and played with heart and focus right from the opening tip. Hell, Martin Zeno played with the flu and was solid.
But what is most frustrating is watching your team lose when it doesn't play its best. That is to take nothing away from Tech, because they deserve credit for taking us out of some things that we wanted to do. But in a lot of ways, our players seemed to revert to the early-season mindset that they could walk on the court and the other team wouldn't try to stop whatever they were trying to do. It just doesn't work like that, and it's getting frustrating watching it continuing to happen intermittently.
I'm going to stay away from the more obvious refereeing arguments as much as possible, because as I mentioned last night, the game was absolutely, unequivocally, without a doubt not lost for us because of the officials. Our sloppy, lazy, unfocused play was the reason K-State lost that game.
Now, that's not to say some of the calls weren't completely bogus. I'm still working on getting some video to back up my argument, so bear with me on that and I'll try to get the video in the post in the near future.
First, the technical foul on Beasley was the wrong call, and was yet another textbook example of Ed Hightower bringing the spotlight on himself. I'm hardly the first who has criticized Hightower, and I'm sure I won't be the last. But the Beasley play was a classic example. Beasley caught the ball above the three-point line, shuffled his feet before putting the ball on the floor, and was whistled for a travel by the official on the wing. His momentum carried him toward the basket, and he looked back at the official on the wing to see the call as he went airborn for a jump stop. As he looked back, Texas Tech's Michael Prince slid in front of him, ostensibly to take a charge that was impossible, given the play was dead. When Beasley turned back to look where he was going, suddenly he had Prince directly in front of him, leaving him the options of 1) stopping on a dime and risking injury, 2) plowing over Prince and risking injury for both of them, or 3) attempting to sidestep him...probably physically impossible. Let's remember that Beasley is 6'10" and weighs 235 pounds; that's quite a bit of forward momentum to stop. Beasley reacted to an unexpected impediment by putting his arms up, which in my mind is hardly an unexpected reaction. In doing so, he appeared to extend them and knock Prince over. Hightower took this as an intentional shove and T'd Beasley up on the spot. Under the NCAA rules, a direct technical foul can be issues for any of a number of reasons, and is not limited by the list on page 164 of the linked PDF document. Certainly shoving another player in an unsportmanlike fashion would qualify for a technical foul.
The problem is, several of the provisions mention a state-of-mind requirement, specifically "purposely" or "knowingly." In other words, in at least some situations, the NCAA recognizes that a player must have a certain intent to break the rules in order to be hit with a technical. In a game based on reactions, it only makes sense that this should be so. Reacting to something totally unexpected, even in a way that results in a player crashing to the deck as Prince did, really does not deserve a technical foul. Punishing involuntary conduct does not serve one of the major goals of punishment, which is deterrence. In the case of a technical foul in basketball, one of the goals of the punishment is clearly to deter the player from such conduct in the future. But if the action penalized is a reaction over which the player had no control, it will not be deterred in the future. Unconscious action cannot be controlled by conscious thought.
Anyway, it was pretty clear to me that Beasley had no intent to shove Prince. Both announcers--who I hesitate to cite in support of my argument, considering they were consistently awful all night--and the guys in the studio at halftime and Seth C over at Double T Nation agreed that the call was bogus.
Now, on to the Blake Young technical. Again, I hope to have some video backup for this. First, let me say I thought Young deserved that technical. He balled up his fist and made a move that looked for all the world that he was about to slug Tech foward Esmir Rizvic in the proboscis, which would not be a hard target to hit. However, the video I saw clearly shows that Young pulled the punch and did not make any contact with Rizvic. I also thought Rizvic was clearly deserving of his technical. The play itself was fairly rough, with Young trying to run off several screens set by Rizvic, and on the last of which it appears Rizvic raised his forearms. I'm sure there was some chatter going on down there, as well. However, when the play was blown dead, Rizvic was the one who initiated the post-whistle festivities by stepping in only inches from Young in a threatening manner. I give Blake credit for pulling the punch, but the double-technicals were deserved in the interest of trying to keep the game in control.
Edit: Here is video of the Blake Young technical. Notice first that Young hits Rizvic with a forearm on the first pick, then Rizvic clearly raised his forearms on the second pick. After the whistle, Rizvic does a little more than step into Young's face, he actually initiates contact. Good double-technical, in my opinion.
That's enough of that. Let's move on to the issues I had with the players and their actual play.
What I liked...
...our heart in the second half. After halftime we came out and Tech scored a couple quick buckets to extend the lead. It would have been easy to pack it in and start thinking about getting on that flight out of Lubbock. But Bill Walker refused to say die, almost single-handedly cutting the lead to four at one point.
...Bill Walker's offensive effort in the second half. As I said, he dragged that team kicking and screaming back into the game. I should also note that Walker's attitude when called for fouls in the first half was much more in line with what we want to see. He bit his jersey after the second foul instead of chirping at the ref. Let Frank Martin take care of those issues, just play the game.
...the class of Pat Knight. It was impressive to see a third-game coach tell his own student section to shut up. As much as I'd like to, I can't sit here and tell you I've never chanted some pretty derogatory words at opposing teams, but that's true of almost any student if they are being honest with you. All the same, it was impressive to see Knight try to inject a bit of class into the student section. Of course, he may have had an ulterior motive, not wanting to piss off Beasley.
What I didn't like...
...our complete lack of effort, focus and execution, especially in the first half. Nobody took care of the ball, nobody set strong picks, nobody played tough defense, and nobody cut to the basket.
...our lack of composure. Beasley seemed rattled from the start, getting tangled up with Rizvic early and then sometimes trying to do too much and putting up some bad shots. It's a credit to his basketball skill that he made a few of those bad shots. But he did appear to be frustrated, and it affected his hustle, as he failed to get back on defense a couple times. We need to get back to the composure we displayed in Norman, because we're going to be going to some hostile environments. I'm sure the 7,000 or so Tech fans in attendance last night tried to make it rough, but they'll be nothing compared to the hooligans we'll see in that barn down the river next month.
...Bill Walker's hustle early. At least twice, Tech picked up easy points because Walker jogged up the court and his man went straight to the hoop for a layup. Walker does so much good for this team and is such an incredible talent, but he could be out of this world if he'd stop taking plays off.
...seeing Clent Stewart struggle. I really hoped Clent would have a good game in his first game back, but he looked rusty. Which is totally understandable, but he was overmatched guarding Zeno early and never had any real impact on the game. Here's hoping he gets back in the flow of things soon.
...listening to Ron Franklin and Hubert Davis. Dear God, that was painful.
What it means and where we're going...
There's no two ways about it. That game last night hurt. It was another chance to pick up a Big 12 road win against a middle-of-the-road conference team. Even more, it was against a team that has been struggling and has gone through a bizarre midseason coaching change. But a quick perusal of the boxscore indicates Tech played, in many ways, above itself. Alan Voskuil is one helluva shooter, but even he is not an 83 percent three-point shooter, nor a 64 percent field-goal shooter. He averages 12 points per game, but scored 30 last night. Sometimes good players play great games, and all you can do is tip your cap to them.
One other thing I noticed, and it's related to our hustle and heart, was loose balls. There were several plays last night where our press forced a Tech player to fumble the ball and put it up for grabs, but it seemed like Tech always came up with them. Some of that's just the breaks, but a lot of it is hustle. Tech wanted the ball more than us, and they got it. Some of it also comes down to composure, and several times we reached for the ball with about as much composure as a teenager reaching for the remote control when his parents are about to bust him watching something he shouldn't be.
Technically, we still control our own destiny in the Big 12. We are tied with Texas and KU in the loss column, meaning that we can be the No. 1 seed in Kansas City by winning the rest of our games. That's self-evidently easier said than done, with road games remaining at Baylor and in the barn down by the river.
What can we do now? Get ready for Mizzou. The old saying is that even though losses suck, we have to make sure we don't let Texas Tech keep beating us. Mizzou got a win over Nebraska last night on the road and has already proven it can beat us this year. It's a crucial bounce-back and revenge game.
Finally, congrats to the K-State women for a win over Iowa State last night. Coupled with Baylor's loss last night, the win moved the Cats a half-game ahead of the Bears in the standings, although Baylor still owns the tiebreaker.
Chin up, Cat fans. There's plenty of basketball to be played this year.