Aggies return to road to face Texas Tech

No. 9-ranked Texas A&M plays its first road game in 45 days when it travels to Lubbock to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Wednesday night in a nationally televised contest. Texas Tech is led by 6-5 senior, 4-year starting, guard Martin Zeno (left). Tony Hooten provides an indepth preview of the Aggie-Red Raider clash.

The No. 9-ranked Texas A&M Aggies (15-1) plays their first road game in 45 days when they travel to Lubbock to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Wednesday at 8:35 p.m. at the United Spirit Arena.

A&M climbed to No. 9 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll and to No. 10 in the AP poll this week. The Aggies have been ranked in both polls a school record 31 straight weeks.

The Aggies will be looking to extend their 8-game winning streak and remain perfect in Big 12 play.

The game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.

Two of Texas A&M's seven losses last season came against Texas Tech - 70-68 on January 24th at Lubbock and 77-75 on February 13th in College Station. The Aggies will no doubt be seeking to avenge these losses.

The Aggies are coming off an 86-69 win against Colorado at home on Saturday.

Texas Tech (9-6) is coming off a disappointing 74-55 loss on the road to Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon.

Texas Tech is coached by the legendary Bobby Knight.

As most know, Bobby Knight has the most career wins of any coach in NCAA history with 899, having passed passed Adolph Rupp (876) and Dean Smith (879) last season.

Knight is in his seventh season as head coach of Texas Tech. Knight took a Red Raider team that had gone 9-19 in 2000-2001, and turned Tech into a 23-9 side in 2001-2002. Knight's record at Tech is 135-80.

Knight's current career record, as measured by the NCAA, stands at 899-369. Tech's loss to Oklahoma State means that Knight will still be seeking his 900th career win when Tech hosts the Aggies.

Bobby Knight isn’t much for milestones, which is good news for him, because the Aggies aren’t much for his milestones either. Nearly five years ago, Knight came into Reed Arena seeking win No. 800 against an 11-7 Aggie squad, a team that had previously lost to UT-San Antonio and Princeton.

When Knight left Reed Arena later that night, he was still looking for win No. 800 after a 64-59 loss to the Aggies.

The Aggies are now a 15-1 team and are ranked No. 9 in the nation, but this team is no more interested in helping Knight achieve another milestone in his legendary career than those 2002-2003 Aggies were.

This year's Red Raider team is a rebuilding side, returning only one starter from last season.

But that one returning starter is a good one in 6-5 senior, 4-year starting, guard Martin Zeno, pictured above.

Prior to the season, Zeno was named among the top 50 preseason candidates for the Men's 2007-2008 John R. Wooden Award, the nation's most coveted college basketball award, announced by The Los Angeles Athletic Club's Wooden Award Committee.

Last season, Zenon averaged 16.6 points per game and was ninth in scoring in the Big 12 Conference. He started 33 of 34 games as a junior and has started 90 of 99 games in his three seasons as a Red Raider. The Sulphur, Louisiana native led the Red Raiders in rebounding (5.3), FG percentage (.495), FT percentage (.791), and assists (109) for the 2006-2007 season. Martin was 17th among Texas Tech's career scoring leaders with 1,416 points, and will surely climb that list during his season season.

This season, Zeno has started all 15 games, and is averaging 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists a game. Zeno has struggled from 3-point range, hitting only 3-of-13 attempts.

Knight and the Red Raiders have struggled this season to find a combination that works.

Other than Zeno, only one other player has started more than 9 games - junior guard Alan Voskuil (6-3, 175). Voskuil is averaging 13 points and 4 rebounds a game. Voskuil is also the Raiders most deadly 3-point shooter, connecting on 33 of 57 3-point attempts for an incredible 58%.

Other projected starters for the Red Raiders are freshman guard John Roberson (5-11, 165), freshman forward Mike Singletary (6-5, 226), and senior center Esmir Rizvic (7-0, 252). Roberson has started 9 games and is averaging 12 points and 3 assists a game, and has made 26 3-pointers. Singletary has started 7 games and is averaging 7 points a game. Rizvic has only started 5 games and has not been very productive, averaging under 4 points a game.

Other Red Raiders expected to see significant playing time are senior guard Charlie Burgess (6-1, ), junior forward Damir Suljagic (6-8, 245), freshman forward D'Walyn Roberts (6-7, 194), and sophomore forward Trevor Cook (6-8, 245).

The guards - Zeno, Voskuil and Roberson - are all averaging between 28 and 34 minutes of play a game, while everyone else averaging under 20 minutes a game and being frequently substituted.

Texas A&M is expected to start the same lineup as it has for all 16 games: junior forward Josh Carter (6-7, 200), senior forward Joseph Jones (6-9, 255), freshman center DeAndre Jordan (7-0, 260), sophomore guard Donald Sloan (6-3, 205) and senior guard Dominique Kirk (6-4, 185).

Carter leads the Aggies in scoring with 13.6 points a game and has hit 39 three-pointers. Jones is averaging 11 points and 5 rebounds a game. True freshman Jordan has been coming on strong and is now averaging over 10 points and 7 rebounds a game. Sloan and Kirk are each averaging about 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists a game.

With the Aggie winning margin over 16 games over 20 points, the Aggie starters have only averaged about 25 minutes a game.

First off the bench amd averaging over 20 minutes a game have been sophomore forward Bryan Davis (6-9, 250) and sophomore guard Derrick Roland (6-4, 190). Davis is averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds a game, while Roland is averaging 7 points and 3 rebounds.

Other Aggies who have seen significant playing time are sophomore forward Chinemelu Elonu (6-10, 235), true freshman guard B.J. Holmes (6-0, 175), true freshman forward Nathan Walkup (6-6, 195), and senior guard Beau Muhlbach (6-5, 205).

To get a better feel for just how good Texas Tech is, the Red Raiders are rated No. 99 (of 341) in Jeff Sagarin's Basketball Ratings. The Raiders' nine wins have come against UC Riverside (No 321), Stephen F. Austin (No 83), Alaska Anchorage (Non-NCAA), Gonzaga (No 24), TCU (No 175), Louisiana Tech (No 325), Northwestern State (No 301), Lamar (No 249), and UTEP (No 91).

Texas Tech's six losses have Sam Houston State (No 78), Butler (No 22), Centenary (No 239), New Mexico (No 56), Stanford (No 30), and Oklahoma State (No 92)

By contrast, Texas A&M is currently rated by Sagarin at No. 17. The one common opponent, UTEP, the Aggies beat by 5 points at home, while Tech won by 7 points at home.

Tech's best game of the year was has probably been their 81-71 defeat on the road of then No 14-ranked Gonzaga. The Red Raiders also had clse losses to Top 25 teams Stanford and Butler.

At his Monday media luncheon, Aggie head coach Mark Turgeon was asked if he'd seen Tech play and he responded:

"Offensively they are a really good motion team. They seem like they are moving faster even than they have in the past. Maybe that's just because I have to coach against them instead of just watching them on TV. They are really moving well, great screeners. They get the ball to the right guys at the right time. They will have a defensive game plan against us. You don't win that many games without knowing what you are doing and he will have a game plan and we will have to adjust to it. We will see how they guard us but we have a pretty good idea about how they want to play. We have watched them a lot. You just don't know who is going to play for them. You know (Martin) Zeno is going to play and (Alan) Voskuil and the big kid in the middle, he has played a lot of minutes. Then after that they have had a lot of different starting lineups and played a lot of people so we have to prepare for a lot of different bodies."

Lubbock is always a tough place to play. The Red Raiders' home record this season is 7-1 and is 88-17 over the last six and a half seasons.

After playing at home the last 45 days, going on the road to a hostile sold-out Raider venue will challenge the Aggies.

When asked Monday how he thought the team would respond on the road after such a long homestand, Coach Turgeon responded:

"I imagine that we are going to respond well because we have a certain toughness about us. We played pretty well at Arizona except for about a 10-minute stretch there in the second half. We will learn from it. We have learned all year and gotten better. We're all looking forward to getting back out there, it's been a long time, 45 days."

With the Aggie experience and the motivation of Big 12 Conference play, we expect the Aggies to play with great focus and intensity and meet the Raider challenge.

The Aggies should one again dominate inside and have a huge rebounding edge.

I look for Texas A&M should win this game by at least 10 points.

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