Texas Tech (8-7) versus Texas (11-4)
Where: Austin, Texas, Erwin Special Events Center
When: 7 p.m. (CT), Saturday
TV: Longhorn Network
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network from Learfield Sports
The Matchup: The first thing that jumps out about the Texas Longhorns is their youthfulness. Rick Barnes' club has no seniors and only two juniors. Predictably, Texas has struggled in some respects, but has still managed to knock off Temple and North Carolina en route to an 11-4 start. Two of the four losses, however, have come in UT's first two Big 12 outings against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Suffice it to say the Longhorns will bring everything to the table in order to avoid an 0-3 conference start.
Barnes plays essentially a nine-man rotation and gets very balanced production. Jonathan Holmes, a 6-foot-8 forward leads Texas in scoring at a 13-point-per-game clip. Leading rebounder is massive bruiser Cameron Ridley, a 6-foot-9 285-pound center who pulls down 7.3 caroms per contest. Isaiah Taylor dishes out almost four assists per game to lead the Horns in that category.
Shooting the rock is not a Texas strong suit. The aforementioned Ridley, who shoots 54 percent from the floor is UT's best, and the team as a whole shoots only 44 percent while holding their opponents to 40-percent shooting. The Longhorns are also a weak free throw shooting team, knocking down only 64 percent of their freebies. Rebounding, however, is not a problem for this team as Texas pulls down almost eight more boards per game than their foes. The Longhorns also block almost seven shots per contest.
As many people feared and expected, Texas Tech has faltered in Big 12 play, dropping two home games after starting the season 8-5. On the positive side, the Red Raiders were in it down the stretch against Iowa State and West Virginia and could have won those games. The trick for Tech now is to learn how to finish games, and to play well on the road. To have a chance in Austin, Tech will have to do both in spades.
Statistically, there are some good signs for the Red Raiders. Once a dismal three-point shooting team, Tech now shoots a semi-respectable 32 percent from deep. Point guard Robert Turner, despite shooting woes, has got his assist/turnover ratio to exactly two-to-one and his free throw shooting percentage up to 68. Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert continue putting up good numbers. Crockett averages 14 and six, while Tolbert tallies 13 points and seven boards per contest. Both shoot 60 percent from the floor. The Red Raiders, who outrebound their opponents by five boards per game, would benefit from the return of 6-foot-10 big Kader Tapsoba who has missed the last two games with a dislocated finger.
Texas Player to Watch: Jonathan Holmes is Texas' most well rounded player. The San Antonio product averages 13 points and seven rebounds per game, and shoots 41 percent from three-point range. He's a deep threat for a team that does not shoot the trey all that often.
Tech Player to Watch: All-purpose performer Toddrick Gotcher, despite being little known, could develop into Tech's MVP. He does a little of everything and is doing more and more of it all the time. Gotcher averages 7 points, two rebounds and three assists per game, and is Tech's best three-point gunner connecting on 42 percent of his efforts from that range.
Notable: Texas sophomore forward Connor Lammert is the younger brother of Tech forward Clark Lammert.
Quotable: "The goal is to come out here and win, and these games [close losses] hurt more than getting beat by 50 because you fight so hard until the very last second; it just kills you."—Tech forward Jaye Crockett
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