Who: Texas Tech (17-11, 5-10) vs. Oklahoma State (19-9, 8-7)
Where: Stillwater, Oklahoma, Gallagher-Iba Arena
When: Saturday, February 25, 1:00 p.m. (CT)
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network
Notable: Despite losing its first six Big 12 games, Oklahoma State is a near lock to make the NCAA tournament. The last team to lose its first six conference games and make the Big Dance was Maryland in 1985-86. That Terrapin team received a No. 5 seed and lost in the second round to No. 4 seed UNLV.
Quotable: “We find ourselves in another one possession game, and we try to play it to the bone. We foul the right guy, we block out, we play the game right, we don’t have any timeouts left and maybe that’s my mistake. I’ll take the responsibility for that, not Justin. We come down. One of the best players I’ve ever coached (Keenan Evans) doesn’t make the play. I will take the ball in Keenan Evans’ hands every time for as long as I coach here. That’s what I saw in the last play.”—Chris Beard on the loss to Iowa State
If you believe in such things, Texas Tech is surely the most star-crossed team in college basketball. In their last five games alone, the Red Raiders have dropped two one-point decisions, one overtime game, and another double-overtime contest. Two of those losses, moreover, came to top 10 teams in Kansas and West Virginia.
The Texas Tech camp appeared quite distraught after the latest loss, a two-point overtime crusher at home against Iowa State. However, nobody, least of all an Oklahoma State team that is trying to lock up an NCAA tourney berth, will feel an ounce of pity for the Red Raiders. The world of big-time college basketball is full of cold-eyed carnivores, and you can either eat or be devoured. The choice is that stark.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys have transformed themselves from a herd of sheep into a pack of slavering jackals. As noted above, they lost their first six Big 12 games and looked ready for the big sleep. Instead—and as luck would have it—OSU boss Brad Underwood made a significant defensive adjustment for the first game with Texas Tech, and OSU whipped the Red Raiders by 19 in Lubbock. They’ve been sizzling hot ever since.
Although a defensive switch enabled OSU to go from dog to doge, the Cowboys are very much an offensive team. In conference games they are No. 3 in scoring, No. 3 in field goal percentage, No. 3 in 3-point field goals made, No. 4 in offensive rebounds, No. 1 in shooting percentage, and No. 1 in free throw percentage. Oklahoma State shoots 79 percent from the line; second best TCU shoots 74 percent.
That offensive prowess is driven by some excellent individual talent. In Big 12 play Jawun Evans averages 17 points and seven assists per game, while shooting 79 percent from the line. NBA scouts now have bulging folders on Evans.
Jeffrey Carroll wasn’t on anybody’s radar prior to the season as being an All Big 12 performer, but he’s played like it the entire season. His 18 points per game in Big 12 play is second best in the conference. He also grabs six rebounds per outing, shoots 54 percent from the field, 83 percent from the free throw line, and 48 percent from three in conference action.
Texas Tech’s back is squarely against the wall. NCAA tournament hopes are fairly dim and would be extinguished with a loss in Stillwater. Still, the Cowboys have lost three of their seven Big 12 home games, and the Red Raiders have the ability to beat any team in the country, so this game does retain some drama.
Statistically, Tech is mid-pack in most major categories. To defeat OSU on the road the Red Raiders will have to play their best defense in the hope of preventing a lethal offensive explosion from the volatile Cowboys. In conference play, Texas Tech is No. 5 in scoring defense, No. 6 in field goal percentage defense, and No. 6 in 3-point field goal percentage defense. The Red Raiders will have to do better than that on this day to secure their first Big 12 road victory.
In conference play, Texas Tech has the Big 12’s No. 5 scorer in Keenan Evans, and its No. 5 rebounder in Zach Smith, but doesn’t have a player among the conference’s top 15 in assists and steals. The obvious void in the Red Raider lineup is at point guard. Devon Thomas, perhaps the only true point guard on the roster, had a very nice game against Iowa State, and will be needed on both ends of the court in Stillwater.