United Spirit Arena | Lubbock, TX | Tip: 3 P.M. CT
TV: Big 12 Network (Affiliate List) & ESPN Full Court | Internet: ESPN3
LRT Consecutive Game #215
Margin for error is a thing of the past for the Texas Longhorns. Rick Barnes’ young team lost any wiggle room they might have had in their quest for the NCAA tournament, falling to Oklahoma State and Baylor in back-to-back games. The two defeats put Texas right back on the bubble with only three games left in the regular season.
Few people hold the illusion that the Longhorns will march into Allen Fieldhouse and earn a win against Kansas in the season finale. That means that Texas has to win their next two games and one in the Big 12 tournament to even get to the 20-win plateau. Thanks to an incredibly soft bubble this season, Texas could even still squeak into this year’s NCAA tournament with less than 20 wins.
Regardless of how many victories the team finishes the year with, what the Horns simply cannot afford to have is the stench of a loss to Texas Tech emanating from their résumé If Texas goes down in Lubbock this afternoon, it’s time to start making plans for the NIT.
Meet the Red Raiders
To learn more about the Texas Tech players and the team’s style of basketball, check out LRT’s game preview from the first game between these two teams.
The first game
The Longhorns set the tone early, swatting Texas Tech’s shots with regularity. Unable to score, the Red Raiders were further discouraged by a Texas offense that penetrated at will and scored in bunches. Senior Clint Chapman was the biggest benefactor, scoring 20 points on a ton of easy looks and a perfect 8-of-8 mark at the line.
The game was never in doubt, and Texas built a lead as large as 25 points in the second half. Despite the deep hole, Texas Tech continued to fight, reeling off an eight-point run before trading buckets down the stretch. Texas cruised to a 74-57 victory, as three different Horns scored at least 17 points.
In the post-game presser, Coach Barnes showed concern over that late defensive lapse, saying his team started to “play with no purpose.” If the Longhorns manage to build a big lead at United Spirit Arena this afternoon, you can be sure that the coaches will remind them to stay focused.
Texas Tech managed to avoid the historical shame of an 0-for-conference season, whipping Oklahoma at home two weeks ago. The Red Raiders locked down Sooner superstar Steven Pledger, holding him to just four points. A box-and-one defense was especially effective for Tech down the stretch, as Bean Willis stuck with Pledger and frustrated him in crunch time.
The Red Raiders were unable to build on that victory, however, scoring just 38 points in a home loss to A&M three days later. Even more shocking than that final output was the fact that Tech managed just 12 of those points in the final 21:30 of the game. The Red Raiders posted an offensive efficiency mark of only 0.716 points per possession, coughing it up on more than 26% of their trips down the floor.
Tech followed that game with a predictable drubbing in Allen Fieldhouse at the hands of the Jayhawks, but then performed admirably in a road game against Iowa State. Although the Cyclones ultimately won by a 72-54 count, the Red Raiders trailed by just three points at the under-eight media timeout. Unfortunately, Tech managed just two points the rest of the way as Iowa State pulled away for the victory.
Keys to the game
1) Force turnovers – The Red Raiders have one of the few rosters in the country with less experience than Texas, and that youth has shown in the form of constant miscues. Tech is one of the five worst teams in the nation when it comes to turnover percentage, losing the ball on 25.9% of their possessions. If the Longhorns defense can ensure that Tech continues that trend this afternoon, it will not only cripple the Red Raider offense, but also fuel the transition game for Texas.
2) Make the freebies – While Tech is one of the worst five teams in terms of turnovers, they are nearly as bad when it comes to sending opponents to the line. The team’s defensive free-throw rate of 49.6% is one of the 10 worst in D-I hoops, and it means that Texas Tech opponents shoot one free throw for every two field goal attempts.
The Longhorns are knocking down 73% of their free throws so far this year, but have had random games where that number has been closer to 60%. Leaving points at the line will only serve to keep Tech in the game, something that is incredibly dangerous on the road.
3) Make Big Lew uncomfortable – Robert Lewandowski has proven to be a very streaky player in his four years at Texas Tech, and when he’s on a hot streak he can be incredibly effective. On the other side of the coin, he’s also proven that a rough start can essentially knock him out of the game before it really even gets going.
If the Texas defense can replicate their work from the first game, Big Lew will have a hard time getting started. Forcing him to take tough shots early and attacking him on defense should knock Lewandowski out of his comfort zone. Without a big game from their biggest player, Tech will have a hard time pulling off the upset.