Following Wednesday’s 96-88 loss at home to Kansas State, Head Coach Brad Underwood pretty much summed up conference play for OSU thus far - “same song, sixth verse.” Coming off it’s 6th consecutive loss, OSU is still winless in the Big 12 and desperately seeking their first conference win against Texas Tech this Saturday. Tech has won the previous three meetings; OSU leads the overall series 41-19.
Let’s look ahead to the matchup.
Cowboys (10-8, 0-6 Big 12) vs. Red Raiders (14-4, 3-3 Big 12)
Time: 1:00 p.m. CST
Location: United Supermarkets Arena - Lubbock, Texas
Stream: WatchESPN.com (requires provider login)
Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com
In his first year at the helm of this Texas Tech program, Chris Beard has led the Red Raiders to a 14-4 record overall and 3-3 in Big 12 play with an impressive home win against West Virginia already on his resumé. Opposite from their football program, this Tech basketball team looks to slow down pace of play and turn games into a half-court battle. The Red Raiders are an undefeated 12-0 at United Supermarkets Arena this season, led by junior guard Keenan Evans. Evans is averaging just over 16 points a game in conference play and shooting 52% from behind the arc. However, this is not just a one-man show. Tech has three more players behind Evans that average double figures - Zach Smith (13.2), Anthony Living Livingston (11.7) and Aaron Ross (10.5), all three are 6’ 8” forwards. Smith is also top 5 in the Big 12 in rebounds, blocks, and double doubles this season. Tech is led by Devon Thomas at point guard, who averages 4.53 assists to every turnover, good for second in the BIG 12 and third in the entire country. Coming off of a 75-69 victory at home over TCU on Wednesday, Tech is currently tied for fourth overall in the BIG 12 standings and ranked 47th in the RPI.
After letting another tight game slip away on Wednesday, this time to Kansas State, the cowboys are now 0-6 in conference play for the first time since 1979-80 (Sad!). Never thought I would be typing this after a 10-2 start to the season. Despite their poor conference record, the cowboys actually have one of the top offenses in the country. OSU is the second best 3-point shooting team in the conference and average just over 88 points a game. This high potent offense is led by the trio of Jawun Evans, Jeffrey Carroll, and Phil Forte, who combine to score over 47 points per contest for the cowboys. Carroll has scored over 20 points in three straight games and is the only BIG 12 player to be in the top 7 in scoring, rebounding, and field goal percentage in the conference. However, all of this offensive success has not translated into a single win in conference play yet. Scarred by late game execution and poor defense, OSU has lost 4 of 6 conference games when leading at the half. Five of their six conferences matchups have been 1 or 2 possession games with under 5 minutes left in regulation and the pokes have managed to let them all slip away, one way or another. OSU is giving up a BIG 12-worst 85 points a game in conference play, nine more points than the next highest team. Texas Tech awaits tomorrow at 1 p.m. in Lubbock as OSU looks to hand the Red Raiders their first home loss of the season and capture their first BIG 12 win (please please please).
Keys to the game:
- Can we dictate the style of play? Texas Tech and OSU have very different paces when it comes to the game of basketball. Tech on average has 7 fewer possessions per game than OSU, who take every opportunity we can to get out in transition. The cowboys can’t allow this game to be decided in the half-court if they wan’t to escape Lubbock with a victory.
- Can our defense step up in the last 5 minutes? In the last 5 games, OSU has allowed opponents to shoot 66.7% from the field in the last 5 minutes and have sent opposing teams to the line a combined 48 times during those final minutes. This team has been collapsing on itself down the stretch in conference play, one back-breaking layup after another. We can’t continue these defensive breakdowns if we ever want to seal a win, especially on the road.
- Will the real Jawun Evans please stand up? Jawun Evans is our best player and our most talented. Yet, there has been a significant drop-off in his game during Big 12 play and it’s showing in the win-loss column. Yes, the root of our issues are on the defensive side of the ball, but Evans has not been himself and is going through somewhat of a sophomore slump. This team’s improvement starts with him getting back to the high caliber player we know he is.
Oklahoma State 78 - Texas Tech 75
As much as I can’t believe this team is 0-6, I really can’t see us getting to 0-7. May not be pretty but I think the pokes grind one out tomorrow and the combination of Evans, Carroll, and Forte prove to be just enough against the Red Raiders.