Over the past five games, the Red Raiders found their groove offensively after a poor start to the season. Wednesday’s 87-58 victory over Omaha was the first time Tech put together a full effort on both ends of the floor, and it came at the cost of one of the team’s most important players.
In the first eight games of the season, few players made as big of an impact for the Red Raiders as Cambridge. The 6-foot-6 forward’s ability to guard all five positions had been a staple for Grant McCasland’s team.
Entering Wednesday’s game, Cambridge operated as the 5-man in the Tech lineup about 21% of the time (61 minutes, 56 seconds). In that time, the Red Raiders outscored the opposition by 29 points.
Cambridge was also the central piece to most of Tech’s successful lineups. The pairing of Cambridge with fellow starters Joe Toussaint, Pop Isaacs and Darrion Williams outscored teams by 51 points in 63:11 together.
In comparison, the starting five of those four plus Warren Washington played 55:28 together. Texas Tech was a plus-13 in that time.
With Cambridge no longer an option, where do the Red Raiders go from here?
Kerwin Walton the starter, Warren Washington the energy man
In the immediate, a new starter will need to be named. Expect Kerwin Walton to fill that void, playing the other forward with Williams. Walton has carved out a greater role for himself because of his improved defense. In a way, he’s been building toward this enhanced responsibility.
After that, it comes down to lineup management.
While Washington has received plenty of playing time, Tech’s most fluid lineups have come with him being swapped out for either Walton, Chance McMillian or Lamar Washington to go with the other starters. McCasland said prior to the Omaha game the team’s energy level differs greatly from when Washington and Cambridge are the de facto post player.
“His length is a problem,” McCasland said of Washington prior to the Omaha game, “but the motor and physicality that’s required to do that while he’s out there, because sometimes that’ll drop quickly. And then Dev, you don’t have that problem. It feels like the energy is where it needs to be the whole time.
“… I think it’s trying to get Warren to a place where he can really bring the energy he needs the entire time he’s on the court.”
KyeRon Lindsay’s time has come
Beyond Washington, though, the team needs post depth. McCasland knows this and decided Wednesday that KyeRon Lindsay would no longer be on the path to redshirt.
Lindsay saw his first action of the season, checking in with 2:56 left in the game. He hit two free throws for his first points as a Red Raider.
McCasland said had Cambridge not gotten hurt, Lindsay wouldn’t have played. But not knowing the extent of Cambridge’s injury at the time, and the lack of depth in the post, the choice was made to go another direction.
“I’ll tell you what,” McCasland said, “(Lindsay’s) working and getting better and I think this team needs more depth and we’ve got to find people that can come in and help us with some physicality and rebounding, especially with what we’ve got coming.”
McCasland was alluding to Big 12 play, when the team’s physicality will be on full display.
More of Joe Toussaint, Pop Isaacs and Chance McMillian
Over the next five non-conference games before the Jan. 6 trip to Austin, look for the Red Raiders to employ a variety of lineups to find the right mix. Lindsay will get his chance to show he can handle the defensive end — much like Walton has — as will Robert Jennings and Eemeli Yalaho. The latter two haven’t gotten as much playing time as of late, though that will likely change in the next couple games.
While the post rotation gets worked out, look for McCasland to lean heavily on the guards. That’s not much of a change from the current status, but Isaacs, Toussaint, McMillian and Lamar Washington will be even more important to help cover things up on the perimeter during the reshuffling in the post.