Who: Texas Tech (17-12, 5-11) vs. Texas (10-19, 4-12)
Where: Lubbock, Texas, United Supermarkets Arena
When: Wednesday, March 1, 8:00 p.m. (CT)
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network
Notable: The Texas Longhorns are guaranteed of having their first losing season since 1997-98 when they went 14-17 under Tom Penders. Depending upon how the Horns finish the year, they could have the school’s worst winning percentage since “Kaiser” Bob Weltlich led them to a 7-21 mark in 1983-84. Current head coach Shaka Smart was six years old at the time.
Quotable: “To be honest, you're going to have a group of guys that really stick their chests out and believe in themselves and each other at a very, very high level in the moment in order to be in that situation and create what we all want to create, which is a win. I didn't think our spirit was good enough at that point and then obviously, Kansas made some really good plays. Josh Jackson attacked.”—Texas coach Shaka Smart on attempting to knock off Kansas
Given that the University of Texas has won 22 of the last 25 basketball games between the Longhorns and the Texas Tech Red Raiders, the outfit from Lubbock hasn’t had too many good opportunities to beat UT. With a Texas team that has lost five straight Big 12 games (by an average of seven points) hitting town Wednesday, this may be one of the better chances of getting a W for quite some time.
Texas’ woes do not, in the main, reside in the defensive aspect of the game. The Longhorns are fourth in the Big 12 in conference games only, in scoring defense. They are also fourth in field goal percentage defense, and third in 3-point field goal percentage defense. The Horns are also fourth in blocked shots per contest.
It is on offense where UT has been pretty darned dismal. In Big 12 action Texas is dead last in scoring offense, free throw percentage, and 3-point shooting percentage. Furthermore, they are ninth in assists, assist/turnover ratio and offensive rebounds. With offensive numbers such as those, your defense had better be spectacular rather than merely good. Alas, Texas’ is not.
Texas being Texas, the Longhorns are hardly bereft of talent. Freshman forward Jarrett Allen is one of the nation’s elite first-year players, and he may not stick around for a second on the 40 acres. Allen averages 16 points and 10 rebounds in Big 12 play, while shooting a conference best 59 percent from the floor. His 1.7 blocked shots per game tie him for third best in the Big 12.
Fellow freshman Andrew Jones is also having a good season. He’s averaging 13 points and four assists in Big 12 play, and his 1.5 assist/turnover ration is tied for eighth best in the conference.
While Texas is struggling in the win/loss column, Texas Tech isn’t fairing much better of late. The Red Raiders have lost five of their last six, although two of those losses came in extra periods and two others came by a single point.
In conference play, Tech’s problems have been making two-point shots and rebounding. The Red Raiders are No. 9 in field goal shooting percentage in Big 12 play, No. 8 in assists, No. 9 in rebounding margin, and No. 9 in defensive rebounding percentage.
The Red Raiders have done a good job of valuing the basketball, however, as they are No. 3 in the Big 12 in turnover margin. Tech is also No. 4 in 3-point shooting percentage.
Whereas not so long ago there was a legitimate debate over who this team’s MVP is—the chief contestants being Keenan Evans and Zach Smith—there is now little doubt that Evans is the prizewinner. Smith seems to be running on vapor late in the season, while Evans continues playing at a reasonably high level.
In conference play Evans averages 17 points per outing (No. 4 in the Big 12), shoots 46 percent from the floor, averages 3 assists per game, hits 86 percent of his free throws and 43 percent of this 3-pointers. He will likely be Tech’s lone representative on the first- and second-string All Big 12 teams.