After suffering a 1 point loss on the road against Oklahoma State, Texas (11-6, 2-3) will return to the Erwin Center to host 8th ranked Texas Tech (15-2, 4-1). The Longhorns will look to return to .500 in conference play and get a resume boosting win against a Red Raiders team that is playing as well as anyone in the country.
After playing a non-conference slate that ranked 189th in strength of schedule, the Red Raiders have proven in Big 12 play that they are as impressive as their record shows. Texas Tech opened Big 12 conference play with impressive wins over Baylor and at Kansas. The lone conference last came at the hands of Oklahoma, and was followed up with a 1 point win over #2 ranked West Virginia on Saturday. Point guard Keenan Evans is one of the best all-around players in the Big 12. Evans is averaging 17.5 points per games, ranking him 3rd in the conference. The senior is who head coach Chris Beard will turn to when the Red Raiders need a bucket. Freshman Zhaire Smith ranks as the team’s’ second leading scorer with 10.4 points per game and will present some matchup problems as a 6’5 guard who can handle the ball. Inside the paint, Texas Tech will lean heavily on 6’9 junior Norense Odiase and 6’11 senior Tony Hamilton. Both are excellent defenders who may give Mo Bamba some problems. As a team, the Red Raiders pride themselves on getting stops on defense, ranking 5th in the country in scoring defense (60.8 ppg).
Texas will again be without guard Kerwin Roach, who continues to nurse a fractured left wrist. In his weekly press conference, head coach Shaka Smart said Roach would visit a doctor later in the week to see how the injury is healing. Without Roach and Andrew Jones, the starting lineup has had a youth movement. Freshman Jericho Sims and Jase Febres have performed adequately as starters, and Smart is pleased with the way the two freshman are playing. “They’re making strides. It never happens as fast as you want it to, particularly when you’re depending on those guys as much as we are,” he said. “I do think they’re much further along than they were five or eight games ago.”
With Texas Tech playing excellent defense, points will be at a premium and players like Eric Davis will need to be able to shoot well from the outside. Davis poured in 18 points against Oklahoma State while shooting 4-5 from deep. When asked about Davis’ hot shooting of late, Smart emphasized that it does not come as a surprise to any of the coaches or players. “He’s very, very capable. I think for him, starting with the TCU game, I think he realized, and we had a conversation about it, that we really, really need him to step forward,” Smart said.
The game will tip at 7 PM CST and be televised on LHN. Follow along here at HornSports for updates.