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December 18, 2013
Preview: Big opportunity for Raiders
Texas Tech (7-3) has an opportunity to earn an early signature win tonight against an athletic LSU (6-2) squad.
WHEN: Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Lubbock, Texas (United Spirit Arena)
RADIO/TV: Texas Tech Sports Network (affiliates) / ESPNU
SERIES: Texas Tech leads the all-time series 3-1. Tubby Smith is 12-2 all-time against LSU.
TECH TRENDS: Texas Tech's dominance in the paint continued on Sunday versus Central Arkansas -- the Red Raiders outscored the Bears 40-18 inside. Tech also won the rebound battle 36-25, upping their overall rebound margin to plus-3 on the season.
The Red Raiders continue to struggle from beyond the arc, hitting just 4-of-16 attempts versus the Bears after a 1-of-11 line at Arizona. Tech's season average currently sits at 30 percent -- a full 10 percentage points lower than where Tubby Smith would like it.
Free throw numbers continue to climb -- now up to 72 percent -- after a 21-of-28 performance against UCA. Now three of the team's five starters are shooting at 80 percent or better: Jaye Crockett (80), Jordan Tolbert (83) and Dusty Hannahs (86).
Another stat on the rise is bench scoring. Tech was paced by Dejan Kravic' 13 points off the bench in his first non-start of the season and Toddrick Gotcher continued his ascension with 10 points and 5 assists off the pine.
OPPONENT STRENGTHS: LSU leads the SEC in rebounding and is seventh nationally at 44.4 boards per game. The Tigers rank third in the SEC in rebound margin at plus-9 and have out-boarded seven of their eight opponents thus far. They're also terrific at scoring inside which helps compensate for poor three point (31) and free throw (64) percentages.
LSU not only has length, but also great size -- especially in 6-foot-9, 256-pound junior forward Johnny O'Bryant, the SEC's second leading rebounder and owner of 20 career double-doubles. The Tigers are very capable of scoring in transition as well, but they turn the ball over at a high clip (16 per game). If you round up Anthony Hickey's 9.5 points per game, LSU boasts four players that average double figures and on any given night could be see any of the quartet go off for 20-plus. Third-leading scorer Andre Stringer already has two 21-point games this season and is a 1,000 point career scorer.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Johnny O'Bryant and Jordan Mickey versus the Texas Tech frontline. Like a Dutch Boy commercial, both teams have played great in the paint this season. While the Red Raiders' forward tandem of Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert -- 26 points and 12.7 rebounds per game -- isn't quite as prolific as O'Bryant and Mickey, the home team has a chance to match the Tigers bucket for bucket down-low. Tech comes in averaging 39.3 points in the paint per game. LSU boasts a 37.5 points in the paint per game average.
Neither team has shot it well from the outside this year, so there will be a heavy emphasis on scoring inside on both ends of the floor. Tech has faced some tall talents this year, but how will they body up with the long and wide frame of O'Bryant? Mickey has opened his career with eight consecutive games in double figures. The last guy to do that at LSU was some Irish kid named O'Neal in 1989. It's not just about matching O'Bryant and Mickey's point production though, it's about keeping them off the offensive glass and limiting their deep touches. Kader Tapsoba, Dejan Kravic and Alex Foster will all have a hand in those efforts as well and have to hold their ground against one of the more formidable frontcourts they'll face.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Obviously Tech needs to be competitive on the boards. Winning the rebound battle isn't necessarily a must, but the Red Raiders can't get beat consistently on the defensive glass and allow second-chance points to the Tigers. LSU averages 16 second-chance points per game and gives up just seven per outing. The Tigers are not a good free throw shooting team with O'Bryant being especially bad (58 percent), so fouling inside isn't the worst strategy, but only if you're spreading those fouls around. Tech can ill-afford to have Jordan Tolbert in foul trouble like the last time they went up against a talented frontcourt -- he only played 16 minutes versus Arizona.
The Red Raiders must defend well in transition as LSU will look to push tempo and score off the fast break. LSU has proven to be turnover prone though -- 16.1 per game -- and it would certainly be advantageous if Tech could turn defense into offense and get some run-outs of their own off of the Tiger turnovers.
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