Who: Texas Tech (15-6, 3-5) vs. Texas (8-13, 2-6)
Where: Austin, Texas, Frank Erwin Center
When: Wednesday, February 1, 8:00 p.m. (CT)
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network
Notable: Texas has defeated Texas Tech 20 times in a row in Austin. Tech’s last win came in the 1995-96 season that saw the Red Raiders eventually make a Sweet 16 appearance.
Quotable: “Justin Gray, I thought today, was really gritty. He is a little banged up right now. A lot of guys wouldn’t play today with the things that Justin is going through with his body. That is another great example, and somebody that I want to recognize. The ultimate warrior for our team is Justin Gray.”—Chris Beard
The Texas Longhorns have lost six of their last seven games, and are nearing the point of no return. They either turn things around very quickly and salvage a winning season, or they get sucked into the black void and experience Texas’ first losing season since 2012-13.
Texas doubtless views the upcoming three-game stretch as the one in which it rights the ship. Game one is against a Texas Tech program that hasn’t won in Austin since the demise of the Southwest Conference. Game two is on the road against TCU, which is now slumping badly. Texas then returns home to take on a tough but hardly invincible Iowa State club. If the Longhorns don’t get it going during this stretch then they can probably kiss the season goodbye.
Excepting leading scorer Tevin Mack, who is still suspended from play, Texas’ premiere player is 6-foot-11 freshman Jarrett Allen. The Round Rock, Texas product was widely seen as a one-and-done NBA prospect, and although he began the season slowly, is now beginning to come on. Currently averaging 12 points and eight rebounds per game, Allen may be the closest thing to Baylor’s Johnathan Motley that the Red Raiders will see for the remainder of the year. On the flip side of that, Texas Tech seems to match up better with big than small teams.
Young Longhorn guards Andrew Jones and Kerwin Roach are both 6-foot-4, both average 11 points per contest, and both have recorded a team-leading 29 steals. Jones, however, has been much the better shooter from the floor, from three, and from the free throw line.
As a team, however, Texas has not exactly singed the nets this season. The Longhorns have connected on 44 percent of their attempts from the floor, 31 percent from beyond the arc, and 67 percent from the free throw line.
Despite the presence of the towering Jarrett Allen, along with 6-10 James Banks, 6-9 Mareik Isom, and 6-8, 275-pound hulkamaniac Shaquille Cleare, the Longhorns are actually negative-one in rebounding margin. They also have 56 more turnovers than assists on the season.
Texas Tech, coming off a 77-64 win over LSU in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, hopes to welcome back leading scorer Keenan Evans, who missed that game with an injury incurred late in the Baylor affray one week ago. Evans is good for 14 points per contest to go along with 3.2 assists per outing.
6-8 jumping jack Zach Smith continues making strides toward elite status in the Big 12. He scores 13 points and grabs seven rebounds per contest, and has now upped his 3-point shooting percentage to 41. If his jumper continues to improve, Smith will become an elemental force on the basketball court.
As a team, Texas Tech outshoots opponents 49 to 42 percent, and owns a plus-five mark on the glass. The Red Raiders are also No. 24 nationally with an assist/turnover ratio of 1.39.