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Game Preview :: Texas Longhorns vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

THE GOOD GUYS: Texas Tech Red Raiders (16-9, 4-7)
OPPONENT: Texas Longhorns (20-6, 6-5)
LOCATION: United Spirit Arena : Lubbock, TX
DATE: February 20, 2010
TIME: 1:00 p.m. CST
RADIO: Affiliates
GAME CAST: Fox Sports

Texas Tech Ht. Wt. Pos. Yr. PPG RPG APG
John Roberson 5-11 165 G Jr. 15.2 2.2 5.4
Nick Okorie 6-1 195 G Sr. 8.9 2.5 2.0
Mike Singletary 6-6 217 F Jr. 15.3 6.6 2.3
Brad Reese 6-6 189 F Jr. 6.8 2.6 1.0
Darko Cohadarevic 6-9 240 F Sr. 7.2 5.3 1.1
Texas Ht. Wt. Pos. Yr. PPG RPG APG
Dogus Balbay 6-1 175 G Jr. 3.9 3.3 4.0
J'Covan Brown 6-1 185 G Fr. 10.2 2.7 2.4
Avery Bradley 6-2 180 G Fr. 12.7 3.0 2.2
Damion James 6-7 225 F Sr. 17.8 10.8 0.9
Dexter Pittman 6-10 290 C Sr. 10.5 6.0 0.6

The Season Thus Far: The Longhorns are "struggling" right now. PB at BON has a much better look at the Lonrhorns, but the key is that there's quite the divide of the fanbase in UT's recent struggles, which includes losing losing 4 of their last 6 games since playing Texas Tech. Of those 4 losses, they come in all shapes and sizes, including a loss at home to Baylor, a loss on the road to OU, getting blown out by Kansas and losing on the road against Missouri earlier this week. The Longhorns are still a good basketball team and in my feeble basketball mind, I think this is a case of having young guards not know how to lead a basketball team, which includes getting the ball to your best players. It appears that UT suffers the same type of problem in that their best "glue" players, Balbay and Texas Tech nemesis, Justin Mason, aren't offensively adept (although this is usually not the case against Texas Tech) and I think it's tough to have two players on the floor that may not be an asset on both ends of the floor (Balbay and Mason are terrific defenders). Texas Tech has the same type of problem with quite a few of it's players, i.e. they're one-dimensional.

The Main Players: James' spectacular season is going somewhat unnoticed, but he's absolutely dominating, averaging a double-double and leading this team night-in-and-night-out. The official UT site thinks that Brown gets the start over Mason, but I wouldn't be surprised if Barnes did start Mason as he seems to have his absolute best games against Texas Tech. You're still looking at 4 players almost average in double-figures, but theose players are pretty young: James, Avery Bradley, F Gary Johnson, G/F Jordan Hamilton and G Varez Ward.

Control the Pace: I think the Longhorns are best when they run and Texas Tech would be well-served to try to control the pace of the game. Of course, this has been part of UT's problems is that they're also having a turnover problem with their guards, but truthfully, their team isn't turning the ball over any more or less than Texas Tech. In any event, the Longhorns are pretty good offensively, 26th in the nation in eFG%. A large chuck of that efficient offense comes at the hands of James, Pitman and Johnson scoring inside. Hopefully, with a relatively healthy Roberts and un-suspended Darko, this team will compete better inside and not allow so many easy shots (see more below).

Post Play: For those of you keeping score at home, Texas Tech played with essentially 1 post player the last game, C Robert Lewandowski, but he only played 19 minutes. The loss in January could be chalked up to a lot of things, but mainly it was the idea that the Longhorns absolutely dominated the post, including out-rebounding the Red Raiders by 19. LAJ's Courtney Linehan writes that part of the game-plan, per Darko, is to pull the Longhorn post-men away from the basket:

"The gameplan is to pull them out of the paint, even us bigs if we’re in the game, to set high screens," Cohadarevic said.

He knows it works; it’s precisely what Baylor did to Tech on Tuesday night.

"That’s part of playing defense on a big guy, to have ball pressure, to make the perimeter guys have a harder time passing it in." he said. "That’s what (Baylor) did, they pressured our guards and they couldn’t pass it in, even if (Robert Lewandowski) or I was open."

Don't Rely on the Three: The last game, Texas Tech stayed in the game by making 9 of 18 three-point shots. The likelihood of this team hitting such a high number of three-point shots isn't likely and I think this team would be best served working the offense, as Darko suggests, to get easy buckets for the forwards who have a size advantage on UT's smaller lineup. If UT starts three players 6-2 or shorter, there's no way that Texas Tech shouldn't absolutely force a lineup change, whether it's Reese or Singletary taking advantage of a smaller player. Of course, UT will have an advantage offensively as well, but basketball is a game of matchups and Texas Tech needs to win this matchup as long as the Longhorns try the small lineup.