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#23 Texas at Texas Tech Preview

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The Horns (15-5, 5-1) put their new top 25 ranking on the line with a trip to the South Plains against the injury plagued Texas Tech Red Raiders (15-6, 4-2). Game will be televised by ESPN2 at 8 PM. Texas survived the hot shooting of the Baylor Bears last Saturday afternoon and enter this one on a two-game winning streak. Bobby Knight's club followed up back to back upsets of top ten teams at home with a loss at Missouri last weekend.

The Red Raiders are 10-1 this season at home including defeats of then #5 Kansas and then #6 Texas A&M. Their only loss came to a decent UNLV team, and only by eight points.

The Horns have dominated the Red Raiders in the Rick Barnes era, just as they have every other Texas team. Texas is 16-2 against Tech under Coach Barnes, including three victories last season. The Red Raiders last beat the Horns, 69-65, two years ago.

Texas Tech's Schedule
Tech got off to a solid 4-0 start on Bobby Knight's road to 880 wins. After dropping back to back games in Kansas City to Marquette and Air Force, Tech won seven of their next nine and secured Coach Knight's historic 880th career victory in a win at home over New Mexico on January 1st. The Red Raiders' other non-conference losses came at Stanford and the aforementioned home loss to UNLV.

Conference play has been a bit of mixed bag for Texas Tech. In addition to their extremely impressive home wins over the Jayhawks and Aggies, they have wins over Oklahoma at home and Kansas State on the road. Their two losses both came on the road, at Baylor and at Missouri.

Texas Tech's Roster
The most notable thing about Tech is their depleted roster. Seven foot center, Esmir Rizvic, was lost after OU's Longar Longar delivered a swinging elbow to the face on January 6th, and junior point guard Charlie Burgess and senior forward Jon Plefka both sat out the Missouri game with ankle and knee injuries respectively. Rizvic is out indefinitely and Burgess and Plefka are questionable for tonight's game.

Tech will be missing a consistent ball handler if Burgess is not able to play and will be without an experienced and physical post player if Plefka has to sit.

Like last season, the Red Raiders are basically a two headed monster. Senior guard Jarrius Jackson (19.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and junior guard Martin Zeno (16.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg) lead the team in nearly every statistical category. Jackson was an all Big 12 performer last season and has a shot at first team All Big 12 again this season. He is a streaky scorer capable of knocking down a jumper from just about anywhere on the floor. Jackson hasn't been scoring as much lately though. He is averaging just 15.5 ppg in Big 12 play and has scored over 20 points just once in the last six games.

Zeno is better at attacking the basket but doesn't have the range of Jackson. Zeno is also averaging 15.5 ppg in Big 12 play. He does a great job of getting to the line. Zeno has attempted more than ten free throws seven times this season.

Both Jackson and Zeno are going to score. If Texas can shut down the rest of the team, then the Horns have a great shot at their third conference road win of the season.

Darryl Dora (6'9" 250) will likely start at one of the forward spots. Bobby Knight has not been happy with Dora's play recently. He played just ten minutes in Tech's last game. Dora will almost certainly have to get back on track for the Red Raiders to score enough to keep up with the Horns. The other two starters will come from 5'7" guard Benny Valentine, 6'3" guard Alan Voskuil, and 6'7" forward Michael Prince. If Plefka isn't able to go, it will be interesting to see how small Coach Knight plays.

Texas Tech By the Numbers
Both Texas and Tech are efficient on the offensive end but are lacking on the defensive one. Tech likes to play at a slower pace than the Horns and averages just 66.2 ppg in Big 12 play, which is 20 points fewer than Texas is averaging in conference play.  The Red Raiders have shot the ball well from the floor (43%), from three (44%), and from the free throw line (78%) during conference play.

Tech allows opponents to shoot about 43% from the floor, which is only slightly better than what the Horns allow. The Red Raiders don't create turnovers and really struggle on the glass. Tech is 11th in the conference in total rebounds and 10th in rebounding margin.  

Prediction / Horns' Objectives
Pound the Glass. In conference play, Texas is first in the Big 12 with a +6.8 rebounding margin. Tech is 10th in the Big 12 at -5.3. The Horns have a real opportunity to pound the glass and capitalize on second chance points. Points on putbacks could help offset our sometimes stagnant half court offense.

Stay out of foul trouble. This is really a key to every game with our lack of depth. But without Burgess and Plefka, the talent gap is enormous between the starting five. If Kevin Durant and DJ Augustin can stay on the floor, Texas has an excellent shot.

Defend. There is really no way other to put it. Texas is absolutely awful at times on defense. Opponents have exploited us both in transition and in the half court, and Tech's motion offense is bound to cause us problems. Expect Barnes to use the 2-3 zone to slow down Knight's motion offense.

Attack the rim. Too often our half court offense becomes a three point show. Durant, Augustin, and Mason all need to make a conscious effort to attack the basket off the dribble. The United Spirit Arena will be hopping tonight. The Red Raiders student body has really responded to Knight's calls for a better home court advantage. Nearly 6,000 students showed up for Tech's upset win over A&M last week. Nothing will quiet a crowd of 15,000 more than points near the basket and at the line.

This one isn't going to be easy, especially if we play defense anything like we did in the first half against Baylor. Guns will be blazing and the United Spirit Arena is a difficult place to play. Texas is going to have to play a very solid game for both halves to steal this one.

I think they will. Texas played well enough to win at OSU, and the Cowboys are a more talented team. Jackson and Zeno will be tough to stop but there isn't another Red Raider who should scare Horns' fans. Texas pulls off the upset by controlling the glass, limiting dribble penetration, and feeding Kevin Durant. Horns steal another one on the road, 70-68.

--AW--