Red Raiders get back to the basics

January, 2, 2009

Texas Tech had quite a defensive swing over a two-game stretch that might be hard to duplicate.

The Red Raiders gave up 111 points in a 45-point loss to Stanford on Dec. 28. Four days later, on New Year's Day, Texas Tech gave up only 55 points in a 14-point win over Stephen F. Austin, a team that had been averaging 73 points a game, won at Drake and is considered a favorite in the Southland Conference yet again.

What happened? Well, first-year coach Pat Knight had to go Bob Knight on his team. He gave the Red Raiders a clinic. But that wasn't the original plan.

When the team arrived back in Lubbock from Stanford, Pat Knight said he had the players and the grad assistant coaches watch the tape together to see what they did wrong. When the team came out for practice on New Year's Eve morning, Knight was informed that the players couldn't give the same answer as to what their basic defensive principles were for Texas Tech. He said there were five different versions.

Defense has been erratic for the Red Raiders, who are giving up an average of 77.5 points a game this season (which would be lower if you toss out the ridiculous game against East Central that ended 167-115).

Still, not knowing what they should do on defense was a major issue that forced Knight to conduct a two-plus-hour clinic on the subject.

"We had to go over everything, on not allowing driving the lane, to how we defend on the ball, how we want to be in a stance," Knight said. "I'm glad I found out now. How about we play [13] games and they don't know what we need to do? I had more questions asked during the practice."

Clearly the clinic worked. The Red Raiders were a much better defensive team against the Lumberjacks in the 69-55 win. The score pleased Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight, now an ESPN analyst, according to Pat Knight. Pat said his father called him the evening of New Year's Day after he saw a much more respectable defensive score.

"He liked that we kept them in the 50s," Pat Knight said. "You've got to have a defensive mentality if you're going to play against Texas and Oklahoma in this league."

Pat Knight said he has been talking to his father about twice a week. He said he gets all sorts of advice, but said "I've got my dad, who knows the players, knows the system, and understands it better than anyone."

The key, he said, is getting leading scorers John Roberson and Alan Voskuil to buy in defensively. He said if they do then Texas Tech (10-4) has a shot to be a consistent defensive team. The Red Raiders finish the nonconference schedule with TCU in Lubbock on Jan. 6 and open the Big 12 at Baylor before hosting Texas.

As for that 12-year-old he pulled out of the stands? Pat Knight said he didn't know his name, but just looked for the first youngster he saw in the front row to ask if he could make a layup after he said Mike Singletary missed five. He said he was just "this little kid in the huddle and I asked him if he could hit a layup. He said, 'Yes coach.'"

• Don't expect other schools to make a trend out of what Georgetown did: getting recruit Hollis Thompson in school early enough to practice with the team in the spring semester. This is more likely to be a rare occurrence for a few reasons. First off, a player like Thompson, a 6-7 forward out of De La Salle High School in Los Angeles, has to be academically eligible to get into school early. That means he has to graduate high school early. That also means he can't be too committed to finishing his high school season. Football does this quite often, but the season is already finished by the time the players get into school. Not sure too many high school basketball coaches would want their best players to be jetting off to college a semester early and leaving their teams devoid of talent for a conference or state title run. Still, for Georgetown, it's a huge coup to get a player early so he can learn the Hoyas' system in advance of being able to play in the fall. Thompson has already started practicing.

• Connecticut is expected to make a change in the starting lineup with Stanley Robinson replacing Craig Austrie for Saturday's game against Rutgers. The UConn staff reviewed the production and found Austrie wasn't producing much in the past three games (a total of 13 points, 3 boards, 4 assists, 2 turnovers) and will go with Robinson, who after four games is starting to find his rhythm again after he missed the first semester. Meanwhile, the Huskies went back to basic defensive principles in practice after losing by 11 points to Georgetown in the Big East opener Monday night. The practices were described as hard-core defensive practices, which shouldn't come as a surprise based on how the Huskies failed to defend Georgetown. The staff also took turns talking to junior center Hasheem Thabeet about becoming much more aggressive and shaking off any early miscues. Thabeet scored four points and took only four shots in 34 minutes against the Hoyas. He did block seven shots and grab seven boards, but was not a factor offensively.

• Scott Edgar said he wasn't fired, as was first reported by Southeast Missouri State. He said he awoke to a knock on his door Dec. 30 from the FedEx delivery man to find a letter from the school that said he had been bought out. Edgar said the university sent a letter that said he had been terminated without cause and that the two-plus years remaining of his salary would be paid in full. "We still have to go through an investigation [of the alleged NCAA violations] but I intend to clear my name," Edgar said. Edgar is adamant that he wants to get back into college coaching. He was 23-39 in two seasons with the school. Zac Roman is the interim coach.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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