After an 11 point loss to TCU and a 2 point loss to Kentucky, Texas Tech will look to regain some momentum against conference foe West Virginia. The two teams met earlier this month in Morgantown when West Virginia won 66-54. The Red Raiders shot 28.4% compared to their season average of 44%. They also got themselves in serious foul trouble, sending the Mountaineers to the line 35 times compared to Tech’s 7. Miles McBride, a guard for West Virginia, came off the bench and exploded for 22 points.
One of Tech’s biggest priorities will be slowing down West Virginia’s leading scorer, forward Oscar Tshiebwe. Tshiebwe is averaging 11.8 PPG and 9.4 RPG. In the matchup earlier this season, he only scored 7 points (5 of which came from the free-throw line). Where he made an impact was rebounding, grabbing 17 in total and 6 on the offensive glass. The Red Raiders have struggled to play well in the post this season and matching up with Tshiebwe is something this team needs to be ready for. Kentucky attempted to exploit Tech’s lack of size by giving 6’11” forward Nick Richards plenty of touches. Richards scored 25 points with 11 coming from the free-throw line. It seems that if TJ Holyfield is on the bench, usually the only option to stop post scoring is to foul or give up the easy bucket. I say usually because when 7 footer Russell Tchewa came into the Kentucky matchup, he played great defense in the post which included an incredible block. Tchewa scored 4 points in just 5 minutes of game time. As Holyfield continues to be hesitant and inconsistent, the desire is growing for Tchewa to see more time on the court. Unfortunately, Tchewa is likely not yet conditioned enough to play big minutes for this team and is definitely not ready to start. Hopefully, Chris Beard will make it a priority for Russell Tchewa to play more and develop him as a player and athlete.
Even though this Texas Tech team does play small and needs size down low, the biggest problem facing this group is offensive inconsistency. We’ve seen just how unstoppable this team can be in the dominating wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State. Unfortunately, this team has not managed to play consistently well on the offensive side of the ball. This team will need to find ways to score, especially in terms of 3 point shooting, to take down the 3rd best team in the Big 12. With no clear leader for this squad, someone needs to step up. With scoring leader Jahmi’us Ramsey and veteran Davide Moretti both failing to shoot the ball and score consistently, I believe Kyler Edwards is possibly the guy for the offense to run through in this game. As last week’s Big 12 Player of the Week, Edwards has been on an absolute tear the last 5 games, averaging 16.4 points and 42% shooting from deep. He came out hot against Kentucky and gave this team momentum early, something they have desperately needed to do lately.
With no true point guard in this lineup, Chris Clarke needs to step up big for this Red Raiders team. Clarke has not scored in double digits since the Southern Miss game on December 16th. A Swiss Army Knife type player who brings a lot to this offense simply needs to find more ways to score. As the team’s top rebounder, leading second on the team TJ Holyfield by 3.1 rebounds, there is definitely risk associated with reducing his playing time. It may be something Coach Beard will experiment with to try and get this team scoring more effectively, though I do not see Clarke leaving the starting 5 anytime soon.
Playing in Lubbock definitely gives the Red Raiders a huge advantage. The crowd at United Supermarkets Arena has been incredible lately. Even after the arena did not fill up as much as anticipated for the Kentucky matchup, those who showed up were LOUD. The energy in the arena has played a big role in the team’s success this season, and it will need to be loud on a weeknight to help the Red Raiders in their fight against West Virginia. I believe this team will come out of the gates hot, thanks to good shooting by Kyler Edwards. West Virginia will keep it close for the majority of the game due to their presence inside the paint. The last 4 minutes of the game will be pivotal, look for Moretti or Ramsey to make a big play. The Red Raiders will need to make their free throws, especially those shot in the clutch. This is something they have not done well this season and something that needs to change quickly. At the end of the day, if Tech can shoot well beyond the arc, they will take this one.
Texas Tech - 66
West Virginia - 62
3 Quick Keys to a Win:
1) Stop easy post scoring, possibly with Tchewa
2) Consistent shooting beyond the arc
3) Make your free throws