A pair of the top teams in the Lone Star State in Texas and Texas Tech will duel on Wednesday in a pivotal Big 12 showdown.
TV schedule: Wednesday, January 13, 9:00 pm ET. ESPN2
Arena: Frank C. Erwin Jr., Special Events Center in Austin, Texas
Still looking for a season-defining win, the Texas Tech Red Raiders will have their toughest challenge yet on Wednesday, traveling in-state to take on the Texas Longhorns in a marquee Big 12 tilt.
One of the best defensive teams in the nation, the Red Raiders (10-3) have feasted on teams below them, racking up a 9-0 record over Quad 3 and 4 teams – but have only gone 1-3 against Q1 and 2 squads. Their lone win of that group came against a solid Oklahoma team, but the Raiders narrowly missed out on two huge Big 12 wins, losing to Kansas by one in mid-December before falling to Oklahoma State in overtime at the start of January.
Most recently, Texas Tech is coming off a dominant showing on the road, toppling Iowa State, 91-64. The Raiders’ offensive production was spread between a multitude of players, with four double-digit scorers leading the way. Kyler Edwards had one of his best games of the year, recording 19 points (3-4 2PT, 3-5 3PT, 4-5 FT), while Mac McClung (18 points), Kevin McCullar (15 points and 11 rebounds), and Terrence Shannon (11 points and 6 assists) all had solid performances.
The Raiders’ defense has been their best asset this season – they rank fifth in defensive efficiency and hold teams to 0.74 points per possession – but it was their offense that was the star against the Cyclones.
While the Raiders have been average on the offensive end all season – 186th in 3P% and 157th in 2P% – they obliterated Iowa State from the field, going 26-38 (68.4%) on 2PTers and 7-18 (38.9%) on 3PTers, as well as 18-21 (85.7%) from the charity stripe. All clips are better than their season averages, and the Raiders posted 1.32 points per possession in the win.
Although the Raiders rank fifth in defensive efficiency, they will now face an even more efficient defense in Texas. The Longhorns (10-1) – a group that owns the fourth-best defensive efficiency – own one of the best resumes in college basketball, with a 6-1 record against Quad 1 and Quad 2 teams, the lone loss coming to Villanova.
With the exception of Texas’ shellacking of Kansas, the Longhorns have come down to the wire in their other three B12 contests, taking down Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and West Virginia – all by single-digits.
Texas’ most recent outing at West Virginia came down to the wire, but it was the heroics of Andrew Jones that was the difference-maker. With WVU up 70-65 with just under two minutes left, Texas’ lockdown defense – paired with missed free-throws by WVU – allowed the Longhorns to go on a 7-0 run to end the game, which was capped off by a game-winning three by Jones with 1.1 seconds left.
Jones was one of five double-digit scorers for the Longhorns, putting in 16 points while draining all of Texas’ four three-pointers. Courtney Ramey led the way, tallying in game-highs with 19 points and 6 assists, with Greg Brown (12 points and 14 rebounds), Matt Coleman (13 points), and Kai Jones (10 points) rounding out those in double-figures. Despite their struggles from long range, the Longhorns feasted inside the arc, going 23-39 (59.0%) on two-pointers.
Texas’ last outing was much like Texas Tech’s – despite their strong defense, their offense was the star. Texas ranks in the top 25 in 3P% defense (27.1%) and 2P% defense (43.0%), and did hold West Virginia to just 40.5% inside – but West Virginia’s long-range play was stellar against the Longhorns’ three-point defense, and the Mountaineers drained nine bombs to finish at 36.0%.
Last year’s tilt between these two teams was decided by 10 points, with the Longhorns pulling out a 68-58 win in Lubbock. This game could also see both teams score under 70 points, considering – again – both teams rank in the top 5 nationally in defensive efficiency. Likewise, both teams are comparable in offensive productivity – Texas Tech averages 0.95 points per possession, while Texas is slightly behind at 0.93.
What this game may come down to are turnovers and the number of possessions – and, for the Red Raiders, limiting the amount that Texas gets. Texas gets just above 69 possessions a game – and just 19.0% of those possessions typically produce a turnover, which is just slightly better than the Div. I average.
Texas Tech, however, slows teams down – they get just 66.7 possessions and are among the nation’s best in forcing turnovers. 26.4% of opponents’ possessions end in a turnover (fourth-best) – and the Raiders force 18.4 a game.
What sets these two teams apart entering this game, however, is the fact that the Longhorns have proven to have the capability to win over powerhouse programs – something that Texas Tech has struggled with. This is the best team so far that the Raiders will have faced, and it is the perfect opportunity to prove themselves – but the Longhorns might be just too good for the Raiders.
Prediction: Texas 67 – Texas Tech 60