Despite a 2-10 conference record this season under second-year head coach Mark Adams, the Red Raiders are 10-4 at United Supermarkets Arena, including two upsets in Big 12 play — an 80-77 overtime win over the then-No. 13 Cyclones and a 71-63 victory over the then-No. 12 Wildcats on Saturday.
So Texas Tech remains a dangerous team at home in addition to playing Texas tight last month in a 72-70 win for the Longhorns that necessitated overcoming a 12-point deficit. A three from guard Brock Cunningham with 1:09 remaining, a three-point play by forward Timmy Allen 22 seconds later, and five free throws by guard Sir’Jabari Rice helped Texas pull out the win.
“We’re going to play a team that’s well coached over at Texas Tech, a team that that’s won at a very high level, they’ve won in their building at a very high level, and they gave us a really good game here at our place,” acting head coach Rodney Terry said on Saturday. “So a lot of respect for our opponent going into that contest and we’ll start our preparation tomorrow in terms of what we have to do gameplay-wise, but we expect a really good, tough ballgame over at their place.”
The atmosphere likely won’t be as heated as it was last season when Texas Tech fans made clear their feelings of betrayal when former head coach Chris Beard returned to Lubbock, but students were camping out on Sunday night and if the game isn’t a sellout, United Supermarkets Arena should be closer to capacity than the last two games, which were at 69 percent of capacity and 86 percent of capacity.
For Texas, the emphasis will be on limiting turnovers in the first half to avoid the type of deficits they faced against Texas Tech in Austin and an area in which they performed well against West Virginia with only three turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.
“One thing we really addressed was taking care of the basketball better in the first half,” Terry said. “We obviously committed our guys to being a great second half team, but what’s really causing us issues is to be at a deficit at halftime and without a doubt it was taking care of the basketball. And I thought again, guys did a great job in the first half doing that, a better part of the first half we only had one turnover. Just making simple plays, hitting the open gap, and just keeping the game simple.”
By avoiding turnovers, the Horns were able to limit transition opportunities for the Mountaineers — West Virginia only had three fast-break points in the first half as Texas ultimately gained a 23-7 advantage in transition and a 32-8 margin in points off turnovers.
“As a result of that it really helped our defense, we were to get back, set our defense, sit down and guard and try to finish possessions.” Terry said. “So, again, I think when we’re able to do that, obviously our level of play raises to another level and I’ve said this all along that I thought our best basketball was still ahead of us because we still really wanted to continue to get better offensively and defensively.”
Transfer guard Sir’Jabari Rice has helped the offense play at a higher level with his stellar efforts off the bench as the former New Mexico State standout is averaging a team-best 18.4 points per game while shooting 52.1-percent (25-48) from the floor, including a 50-percent mark (14-28) from three-point range, and 28-of-32 (.875) free throws over the last five games. Against West Virginia, Rice scored a season-high 24 points as Texas notched a 47-29 advantage in bench points.
If Texas can secure the win on Monday, it will mark the first regular-season series sweep of Texas Tech since the 2014-15 season.
How to watch
Time: 8 p.m. Central