Who: Texas Tech (4-1) vs. Sam Houston State (2-4)
Where: Lubbock, Texas, United Supermarkets Arena
When: Wednesday, December 2, 8:00 p.m. (CT)
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network
Notable: Texas Tech is ranked No. 9 according to the NCAA RPI released on Tuesday.
Quotable: "Justin [Gray] set the tone with his energy level in the Hawaii game. He's one of those energy givers. Whenever he's in practice, he's constantly encouraging players. He just has a natural instinct for leadership, and he leads by example, too. That's why I thought he pretty much turned the game around for us on Saturday. He gets an offensive board, and that energizes everybody. It demoralizes your opponent when a guy is relentlessly pursuing every loose ball, charging to the basket and playing tough, hard-nosed basketball which Justin does for us constantly."
In the 21st century, Sam Houston State has been a formidable basketball foe for Texas Tech as the Bearkats upended the Red Raiders in 2001 and 2007. But the club from the Southland Conference may be biting off a bit more than it can chew in tackling this Texas Tech outfit.
It has been a very rough opening stretch for SHSU. The Bearkats’ only wins have come against St. Thomas and Bethune-Cookman, while they fell to a couple of very good teams in SMU and California, and a couple of less impressive teams in Southern Illinois and most recently, Wiley College. Sam Houston has been hindered by injuries to top players Paul Baxter and Ameer Jackson, both of whom are not slated to play in Lubbock.
Of those Bearkats who will be available for action, guard Dakarai Henderson may be the leading light. He certainly leads the team in scoring, averaging 15 points per outing. Henderson is shooting only 35 percent from the floor, however, and has one more turnover than assists.
6-foot-8 Lithuanian Aurimas Majauskas averages 12 points per game to go along with five boards per contest, and shoots 50 percent from the floor, 89 percent from the free throw line, leads SHSU in blocks with four, and has a 3/2 assist/turnover ratio. He is obviously a complete player.
Torry Butler is a horse on the glass, pulling down eight rebounds per game.
On the whole, the Bearkats are not a particularly good shooting team as of this moment. SHSU shoots 41 percent from the floor, 30 percent from deep, and 67 percent from the charity stripe. A strength, however, is floor play; Sam Houston has 101 assists against 77 turnovers. That’s an unusually solid number for a team struggling as badly as Sam Houston.
Tubby Smith’s Red Raiders are off to an impressive start this season, racking up wins over the likes of High Point (a better team than their lack of fame would suggest), Mississippi State, Minnesota and Hawaii. Tech’s only loss was via a 10-point decision to then No.16 Utah.
Devaugntah Williams isn’t carrying the Red Raiders, but he’s certainly pulling them along quite well. He’s averaging 19 points and five rebounds per contest, while shooting 92 percent from the charity stripe. Williams also has 13 assists against seven turnovers, and leads Tech in steals with six.
Sophomore forward Zach Smith averages 11 points and five boards per game, while shooting 63 percent from the floor and leading the Red Raiders in blocks with five.
Toddrick Gotcher, nominally a shooting guard, nevertheless leads Tech in assists with 15 while committing only four turnovers.
A real key to Tech’s success has been shooting considerably more free throws than their opponents. The Red Raiders, who are hitting at a 71-percent clip from the stripe, have shot 143 free throws to only 99 by their competitors. Tech has also harassed opponents into 68 turnovers, while those same foes have tallied only 54 assists.