Texas looks to bounce back in Lubbock

The #11 Texas Longhorns will complete a week on the road in Big 12 play on Saturday afternoon at 3pm taking on the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the United Spirit Arena. The Longhorns are coming off of a 78-63 loss at Oklahoma on Monday, while the Red Raiders had the week off after dropping their conference opener at Baylor 73-61 on January 10.

The #11 Texas Longhorns are searching for answers right now on the offensive end. Searching on the road in conference play can be a tough chore for any team, let alone one that has really struggled in recent games.

The Longhorns (12-4, 1-1) were never a threat to win on Monday night in Norman against the Oklahoma Sooners. If there was a blessing in disguise in the 78-63 loss, which snapped a six game winning streak over the Sooners, it was the continued improved play of sophomore point guard Dogus Balbay.

Balbay has been the Longhorns best perimeter on the ball defender for a while now, but he took his game to another level on Monday night. Balbay scored career-highs in points, eight, rebounds, seven and assists, six in 28 minutes of action. It was the first time Longhorn fans got a glimpse of the type of ability Balbay possesses.

Texas Tech (10-6, 0-1) enters Saturday well rested having had the week off to prepare for the visiting Longhorns. The Red Raiders dropped their Big 12 opener on January 10 at Baylor 73-61.

Texas Tech is a struggling team defensively and rebounding. While the season percentage surrendered on defense sits at 42.3%, that number is closer to 46 or 47% against the top teams played on the schedule, which is not a schedule packed with future NCAA Tournament teams.

The Red Raiders want to play quick, get the ball out of the net and push tempo with point guard John Roberson. The Red Raiders score over 82 points per game, but surrender 78.

The Red Raiders won the last game between the two on March 1, 2008 83-80 in Lubbock. The loss by Texas very likely cost the Longhorns a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

The Longhorns and Red Raiders have met 121 times with Texas holding a 68-53 advantage.

Texas is 19-3 against Texas Tech in the Rick Barnes era.

The game is set to tip-off at 3pm central and will be televised regionally on the Big 12 network.

A Look at the Coaches

Rick Barnes, who is in his eleventh season at Texas, coaches the Longhorns. Barnes has a career record of 461-231, including 259-97 at Texas. Barnes is 121-41 in Big 12 games at Texas.

Pat Knight is in his first full season at Texas Tech. He has a career record of 14-13.

A Look at the Numbers

Texas shoots 43.6% from the field, 32.1% from three and 64.7% from the free throw line.

The Red Raiders convert 46.9% overall, 38.3% from the three-point line and 71.1% from the foul line.

The Longhorns surrender just 39.4% shooting and own a +5.2 rebound advantage.

Texas Tech surrenders 42.3%% defensively and checks in with a -1.6 rebounding margin.

The Longhorns are committing 12.4 turnovers per game, while Texas Tech is turning the ball over 14.4 times per contest.

The Longhorn Starters

G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (6.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists)

G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (17.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists)

F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (14.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals)

F Connor Atchley 6-11 Sr. (6.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks)

C Dexter Pittman 6-10 Jr. (9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds)

Key reserves include 6-6 sophomore Gary Johnson (10.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks), 6-1 freshman Varez Ward (3.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists), 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (1.5 points and 1.8 rebounds) and 6-0 sophomore Dogus Balbay (1.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists)

The Red Raider Starters

G John Roberson 5-10 So. (14.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists)

G Alan Voskuil 6-3 Sr. (14.5 points and 4.9 rebounds rebounds)

F D'wayln Roberts 6-7 So. (7.4 points and 4.7 rebounds)

F Michael Prince 6-7 Sr. (4.0 points and 2.9 rebounds)

F Robert Lewandowski 6-10 Fr. (4.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots)

Key reserves are 6-1 junior Nick Okorie (10.5 points and 3.5 rebounds), 6-6 sophomore Mike Singletary (11.0 points and 5.8 rebounds), 6-9 junior Darko Cohadarevic (5.2 points and 2.7 rebounds) and 7-0 senior Esmir Rizvic.

Keys to the Game

The Longhorns, simply put, have to win on Saturday if they have any hopes of being in a position to win the Big 12 and earn a top three or four seed in the NCAA Tournament. It's always tough to call a game a must win this early, but it really is.

In Texas Tech, the Longhorns will face one of the worst rebounding teams around as they have a -1.6 margin on the season and haven't played a tough schedule. That means Texas has to punish the Red Raiders on the glass and if they will play with some patience and get the ball to the rim inside of 12 feet, there will be plenty of second chance scoring opportunities.

Like Iowa State, Texas Tech isn't a team that has the ability to force a high volume of turnovers with man-to-man ball pressure. That means if the Longhorns will limit the numbers of unforced turnovers then they will get a high number of field goal attempts and that creates that many more offensive rebound and second chance scoring opportunities, which is a strength of this team averaging 14.5 per game team offensive rebounds.

Limiting the number of looks for Alan Voskuil will be key Saturday. The senior shooter has knocked down 48 three pointers on the season at 45.7%. Texas has to take away the one hard dribble pull up three and the catch and shoot going right to left as he catches with the inside shoulder low and goes right up into his jumper. He shoots a high percentage in that scenario. Force him baseline going right off the bounce if possible and that will take away his best dimension.

John Roberson has quickly developed into a top-flight point guard in the Big 12. Roberson is subtle and sneaky with his ability to take advantage of straight line driving opportunities. What makes Roberson tough to guard is the fact that he is knocking down 37.5% from three. If a defender plays too tight or closes out a little out of control, Roberson has the ability to go right by his defender and then he creates drive and kicks.

Mike Singletary has come off the bench and started during his time at Texas Tech. Whatever role he is in, he is a comfortable scorer inside of 17 feet and is a sneaky rebounder. Singletary moves terrific without the ball and always find the crease in the defense to create scoring opportunities inside of 12 feet.

There is the possibility of a line-up change for Texas. Even if there isn't, the chances of Dogus Balbay's role increasing grow by the day. Early in the season, consistency has been the issue for Balbay, but he has played well of late and is gaining confidence every time he gets extended minutes. His ability to defend Roberson will be key. Balbay has to watch playing too tight on Roberson and quickly getting himself into tough recovery positions or fouling situations.

Damion James has a favorable match-up against the Red Raiders. Whether it's Roberts, Prince or Singletary, James has the ability to go up over the top in the mid-range, but more importantly attack the offensive glass off the weak side. If Texas can get him in position for weak side offensive rebounding chances, he has the chance to have a big game. Coming off of a sub-par performance, it's safe to assume he will have a very good game.

Dexter Pittman has to keep from getting whistled for over-the-back calls every game when he is blocked out and it's a simple call for any official to make. Pittman has to play smart and give himself the chance to stay on the court. Against Texas Tech, he will likely be pulled away from the basket as much as possible and Tech wants a quick tempo, so it will be interesting to see if Texas slows it down on the offensive end to give him a chance to score the ball when in the game.


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