This year’s matchup features some unusual results — Texas has been better away from the Erwin Center than at home with a 3-1 true road record and a 6-1 road record including neutral site games, while Texas Tech, normally difficult to beat at United Supermarkets Arena, is only 2-4 at home in Big 12 play this season.
The Red Raiders are also in the midst of a three-game losing streak after falling to the Mountaineers, Jayhawks, and Cowboys, a stretch that leaves them under .500 in conference play.
The struggles for Texas Tech compared to recent seasons are largely on the defensive end — this year marks the first time in four years that the no-middle approach favored by Red Raiders head coach Chris Beard doesn’t rank among the top 10 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency.
On offense, guard Mac McClung is the primary scorer, leading the team with 16.9 points per game. McClung scored 22 points in the 79-77 win for Texas Tech in Austin last month and hit the game-winning shot. He also attempted 10 free throws, so the Longhorns will have to do a better job of defending him without fouling.
Protecting the basketball may be just as important for Texas — Texas Tech ranks fifth nationally with a 5.4 turnover margin per game. At the Erwin Center, the Red Raiders turned 15 Longhorns turnovers into 19 points. Texas didn’t score any points off seven Texas Tech turnovers. The 19-0 advantage in points off turnovers was a huge difference in the game.
So Smart’s team needs to be more active defensively creating deflections, steals, and push the ball with pace when they can create steals or secure defensive rebounds to avoid always trying to execute against Texas Tech’s halfcourt defense. Texas only had two steals back in January.
The Longhorns have been able to win close games this season, going 6-3 in games decided by three points or less, but one key area to watch is Texas holding Texas Tech below 70 points, with the Horns winning eight of nine games this season in which opponents fail to reach that threshold.
KenPom.com predicts a close game with a projected scored of 70-68 and a 57-percent win probability for Texas Tech.