Sleepy No. 24 Texas Tech, Kyler Edwards avoid upset vs. Southern Miss

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Back in the top 25 after a sterling, statement win over No. 1 Louisville in New York City last Tuesday, now-No. 24 Texas Tech followed that up by sleep-walking through a Monday night game against Southern Miss in Lubbock, winning 71-65, as Kyler Edwards struggled again.

The Red Raiders trailed 32-25 at the end of the first half, didn’t take the lead for good until there were just nine minutes left on the clock and were still in a one possession game in the final two minutes.

Southern Miss, it’s worth noting, currently sits at 250th in KenPom and 280th in the NET.

That’s not exactly the way you want to follow up a win over the No. 1 team in the country.

“I think a lot of times when we sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. We’re disrespecting the opponent,” coach Chris Beard said. “They played harder than us in a lot of stretches of the game and we don’t really say that about our team as much but that’s exactly what happened.”

One of the issues that they are running into is that some of their returning pieces have not taken the leap they were expected to. Take, for example, Kyler Edwards, Texas Tech’s talented, 6-foot-4 guard combo-guard, Edwards was a name that popped up on a number of breakout player lists back in the preseason after a freshman season where he averaged 5.5 points in 17 minutes, shot 45 percent from three and put up 12 points in the national title loss to Virginia.

And while his counting stats look fine – he’s averaging 10.4 points, 5.1 boards and 3.5 assists – those numbers are the basketball version of an Instagram filter. Kyler Edwards has been far and away the least-efficient starter for Texas Tech, according to KenPom. He’s shooting 35 percent from the field and just 24 percent from three. This matters because Texas Tech has been without their leading scorer, Jahmi’us Ramsey, for the last four games.

Chris Clarke has become a focal point of Tech’s offense, but he’s not a guy wired to score. Edwards is, and he’s built in the same mold as a Keenan Evans, or a Jarrett Culver, or even a Ramsey. In the five games that Ramsey has missed all or part of, Edwards is shooting 39 percent from the floor, 22 percent from three and averaging just 10.8 points. The Red Raiders are 2-3 in those five games, with the wins over USM and Louisville.

Texas Tech will probably be fine in the long run, but they need pieces like Edwards to step up to get to their ceiling. They now have two games and three weeks to find a way to get Edwards going before Big 12 play starts.

Kyler Edwards, Texas Tech (Getty Images)