In the first meeting between Texas and Texas Tech, the Longhorns survived a late-game push by the Red Raiders to leave Lubbock with a 70-61 victory. Conference play hasn’t been the kindest to either of these two clubs, with Texas going 4-6 since their conference opener with the Red Raiders, while Texas Tech has gone 2-9. Of course, both of these teams would love to get another conference win under their belt as the final stretch of the regular season begins, but in reality, a win will mean much more to the 16-8 Longhorns and it shouldn’t be that hard to come by in this matchup.
A look at Texas Tech
Across the board, Texas Tech just isn’t a very good basketball team. They’re littered with youth and inexperience and it has shown up on their schedule and in just about every statistical category. Aside from their 12-13 record on the season, Tubby Smith’s club has struggled to do just about everything, whether it be scoring, facilitating, rebounding, hitting free throws, coming up with steals or simply defending in general.
The Red Raiders rank ninth in the 10-team Big 12 in free throw percentage at .651, ninth in three-point percentage at .306 and ninth in steals with only 6.04 per game. The Longhorns are the only team in the conference behind them, with a mere 3.75 per game. Tech is dead last in the Big 12 in scoring at 61.6 per, field goals after hitting only 20.1 per game and assists with 10.4. But it’s worth noting that these numbers don’t just portray the Red Raiders in a bad light because of the depth and competitiveness of the Big 12. Nationally, Texas Tech is 309th in scoring, 316th in field goals and 307th in assists. To win in the game of basketball, you must be able to score and everything about the Red Raiders’ offense is statistically embarrassing.
But there’s a reason you play the game instead of solely comparing the numbers, and Tech has proven this season – although it’s been seldom to see – that they can make some noise on a single game basis. The first such case was their massive 78-73 upset of then No. 9 Iowa State’s high-powered offense in Lubbock. Outside of that, their only conference win came in a 64-47 blowout win over Kansas State, who Texas squeaked by last Saturday. Outside of those two instances, though, the result for the Red Raiders has often been embarrassing double digit losses.
If Texas Tech has any hope in remaining close in this one, the shoulders of Devaughntah Williams and Robert Turner must be able to support a rather heavy scoring load to make up for the overall lack of point production that will continue to haunt them against a stifling Texas defense that leads the nation in blocks. On the season, the freshman Williams has led the Red Raiders in scoring with 10.5 per game, but consistency has been a glaring issue for him all season, with impressive games often being followed by ones where his impact on the scoreboard goes nearly unnoticed. The same could be said for Turner, who averages 8.8 points and 3.1 rebounds this season.
Keys to the game for Texas
For Texas to come out with their third-straight victory in this one, the formula for success is rather simple: play up to their potential. There’s no question that the Horns’ are the overwhelming favorite against Texas Tech. They severely outmatch TTU in the paint, have better guard play and should make scoring and getting multiple looks at the rim a tremendous issue as they’re one of the best defensive and rebounding teams in college basketball. Outside of not playing with an intensity level that signifies every possession matters – which Texas has done a lot this season – there shouldn’t be any issues on the defensive side of the ball, which will aid Texas in not having to put up a ton of points against a Texas Tech team that already struggles to find points.
As for the offensive end; success is built on the outputs of Isaiah Taylor and Cameron Ridley. When they’re playing up to their potential, Taylor and Ridley can form one of the most imposing inside-and-out duos in the entire nation, and luckily for Texas, both have been finding their strides as of late. Ridley has scored at least 12 points in three of Texas’ last four outings, which includes two double doubles. Texas’ win over TCU seemed to be the turning point for Taylor, who’s averaged 16.8 points and 5.2 assists over the last seven games. If these two can get it going early and often, things will open up for Javan Felix and Myles Turner, as well the rest of the Longhorns’ supporting cast. Jonathan Holmes was cleared to return practice on Friday, but there's been no word as to whether or not he will suit up against Texas Tech.
There really isn’t much to this one. Texas should win handedly with strong defense, aggressive rebounding and some solid outputs from key guys. This biggest challenge for Rick Barnes Saturday will be making sure his guys don’t fall into any bad habits and start executing poorly once the game is in hand. Every game following this one is crucial, with five-straight ranked opponents up next for the Longhorns. The outcome in those games will be pivotal in where Texas ultimately stands during March Madness.
Texas Tech: 56