The No. 21 Texas Tech Red Raiders welcome the Abilene Christian Wildcats to town on Friday for an afternoon basketball game scheduled for a 2 p.m. tipoff at the United Supermarkets Arena. This will be the final tuneup before taking some time off for Christmas and then preparing for Big 12 action.
The 10-1 Red Raiders are fresh off of a 90-54 victory over Florida Atlantic last Tuesday night and currently possess a four game winning streak. The 8-4 Wildcats are coming off of a 109-60 victory last Tuesday over Arlington Baptist and are 2-2 away from home.
The Wildcats compete in the Southland Conference and are led by six year head coach Joe Golding. ACU returned all but three players from a team that finished last season at 13-15. The returners from last year include their top three scorers as well as the leaders in every charted statistic in basketball. In other words, they have plenty of experience.
Leading the way for the Wildcats this season is 6’9” redshirt sophomore center Jalone Friday. Friday led the team in scoring last year with 13.7 per game. In the 2016-17 season he was named the Southland Conference Freshman of the Year and was also named third team all-conference.
He has continued that production in the 2017-18 season by leading the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game and total blocks with 21. He is also second on the team in rebounds at 5.3 per game and converts 81 percent of his free throws.
On the floor, Jalone is an interesting contrast in styles. He has the body of a power forward yet he leads the team in three pointers attempted (49) as well as three pointers made (21) on 43 percent shooting from three range. Since he has the body of a power forward, he also leads the team in fouls with 34 and is third in free throws attempted with 37. He has been a little limited on playing time this year at only 21 minutes per game but he certainly poses some match-up challenges.
Another top performer this year has been 6’6” junior guard/forward Jaren Lewis. Lewis is second on the team in points with 13 per game along with leading the team in field goal percentage at 62 percent, which includes 46 percent from three, and rebounds per game with six. He also converts on 79 percent of his free throw attempts.
Lewis can certainly score from anywhere on the floor. His weakness is his inability to take care of the ball. He is second on the team in turnovers with 25 and only has 19 assists.
The floor general is 6’2” junior guard Jaylen Franklin. Franklin has the type of stats you would expect from your point guard. He leads the team in assists (61), turnovers (27), and steals (24). He is also on the floor for 30 minutes per game.
He averages nine points per game in scoring by shooting 57 percent from the field. His field goal percentage would be close to 60 percent if he would never shoot a three pointer. He is only one of seven from three point range which is 14 percent.
If the game is close, which it shouldn’t be, then Franklin is the guy to foul. He is an embarrassing 47 percent from the free throw line which is by far the lowest percentage of any player with more than 10 attempts. That’s also an amazingly low percentage considering the team free throw percentage is 71 percent.
The Wildcats as a team shoot a very impressive 50 percent from the field which includes 35 percent from three point range. They hold their opponents to 42 percent from the field and 31 percent from three.
On paper it looks like they do everything they are supposed to do. The problem is, the stats are against teams that are nowhere near the caliber of the Red Raiders.
This game will be a challenge for Tech because they are setting their sights on No. 18 Baylor for their Big 12 opener on December 29. I think head coach Chris Beard will battle to get his team focused. Much like the game against Florida Atlantic.
If Tech struggles in the first half of this game, coach Beard can show the highlight film of the Wofford/North Carolina game. That will wake them up. This should be another game where the Red Raiders empty the bench and have fun. Then get to the task of making some serious waves in the Big 12.