Chris Walker shouldn't be blamed for getting a little greedy following Texas Tech's 73-57 loss to Texas on Saturday.
The Red Raiders coach had just watched Tech sophomore forward Jordan Tolbert (18 points and 13 rebounds) turn in his second strong performance in as many games, his hustle and energy pulling the visitors to within eight in the second half before Texas closed things out.
But Walker couldn't help but think what the results could have been had all his big men been putting up such numbers in unison, an achievement that has eluded the Red Raiders (9-9, 2-5 in the Big 12) the majority of the season. While Tolbert had perhaps his best game of the season against Texas, Tech's other forwards in the main rotation, Dejan Kravic and Jaye Crockett, were non-factors in the team's 17th straight loss in Austin.
"It has to be a collaborative effort of all our guys playing good at the same time," Walker said, "for an extended period time, in order for us to win. It's just a matter of us putting it all together in a difficult situation."
Tolbert has been Tech's most reliable post player during Big 12 play, averaging 9.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, while Dejan Kravic and Jaye Crockett have seen their averages drop during league action.
Much of that has to do with the way opponents have constructed game plans against Tech. With Crockett performing at a high level during the first half of the season, teams have made a concerted effort to limit the junior's impact. More focus, too, has been applied to Kravic after he posted a 20-point, nine-rebound effort against Oklahoma. As Tolbert continues to put up big numbers, Big 12 foes will no doubt put together game plans to limit his impact.
Still, Walker knows that better overall consistency in the front court is key if this team hopes to continue improving. Kravic, the 6-foot-11 junior, has shown impressive flashes on offense. His length and quickness often give him an advantage in the post, evidenced by three games of 20 points or more this season.
Where Tech needs to see Kravic make strides the most, though, is on the defensive end, where he struggled against Texas. Cameron Ridley, the Longhorns' 6-foot-9, 270-pound freshman forward, set the tone early by pushing Kravic off the block and establishing position that provided him open looks.
Walker said though Kravic is technically a junior, he considers him a freshman because he is playing college basketball in the United States for the first time this season. Kravic played the previous two seasons in Canada in a style more similar to that played in Europe, where even big men like Kravic run and space the floor, and tough, back-to-the-basket post play is less common.
"You need him to be tough," Walker said. "You can talk about it; I can talk about it. And Dejan is trying. It's a challenge for him, but he's trying. It's not his nature, but it's something he's becoming more aware of. It's something that, as we play these last couple games in conference, we just have to keep impressing upon him the importance of."
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