First of all, what? Just two days ago Tech was finishing up a loss to Gardner Webb on their own floor. Tonight they just took down a solid Arkansas team on the road for the first road win of the year. Tech got off to a 13-2 start, but things seemed like they were going downhill from there. Instead, Tech showed showed heart and ability to close out a game (although they still had a few hiccups).
Second of all, James Banks. James Banks. James Banks just outplayed a potential lottery pick and one of the best players in the SEC, Daniel Gafford. Banks finished with 14 points (5-7 from the field), 15 rebounds (8 of them offensive! 8!), and 6 blocks. The stats undersell his impact on this game. Nearly every Razorback shot within the 3 point line was affected by Banks. Offensively Banks was making smart plays and did a fantastic job of helping Jose Alvarado and Mike Devoe break the Arkansas press. He was a little loose with the ball, but that’s my only complaint from him today.
I would like to credit Tech for finishing this game off. Too many times in recent years we have seen Tech let these 5 points lead with under a minute fall away. With under a minute left, Tech had five chances at the free throw line between Banks, Devoe, and Khalid Moore in the last two minutes and they hit both free throws four times (Devoe missed the front end of one of his chances). That has not happened often. There were some tense moments, Tech had two opportunities to inbound with three seconds left up 2 and very nearly turned the ball over both times, but ultimately they were able to make it work. One minor play I’d like to point out is Khalid Moore making a diving rebound on a 50-50 ball with just 17 seconds left. It looked for sure like Arkansas was about to get yet another offensive rebound, but he was able to dive, poke away the ball, control it, and get it to the open Devoe. Fantastic little play.
Past Banks, Jose Alvarado had a strong game. He kept Tech pushing when the offense was struggling and got Tech some easy transition baskets. He had 20 points (9-15) and 9 rebounds. Khalid Moore and Mike Devoe were critical at the end of the game and both finished with double digit points. Curtis Haywood II and Brandon Alston also had minutes down the stretch.
Tech did a fantastic of limiting Arkansas’ best offensive players. Daniel Gafford had 14 points (on 6-9 shooting) and 8 rebounds which is not his normal level of play. Arkansas complements him with two sharpshooters, Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones, who Tech held to just 8-25 from deep (yes they took 25 three pointers between them). With their best players held in check, the Razorbacks didn’t have the firepower to survive for the win.
Wow. That’s all I can say. I did not expect this in the least. This is a huge shot in the arm for the team and fanbase after the disappointing start to the season. Next Tech looks to make it two in a row over the SEC when they take on Georgia at McCamish at noon on Saturday. The Bulldogs haven’t beaten a team ranked above 150th in kenpom this year. Tech should be minor favorites. A win there would give this team some momentum as they head towards conference play. A loss and this team would feel like it’s back to square one.