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November 14, 2013

Preview: Show and tell for Tech

Fresh off of wins over Houston Baptist and Northern Arizona, Texas Tech (2-0) travels to Alabama (0-1) Thursday night as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. CT
WHERE: Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Coleman Coliseum)
RADIO/TV: Texas Tech Sports Network (affiliates) / ESPN2
SERIES: 1-6 Alabama; UA won 66-62 in Lubbock in 2012.

TECH TRENDS: The Texas Tech coaches weren't overly concerned -- at least not publicly -- when the Red Raiders only connected on 3-of-17 three-point attempts on Friday against Houston Baptist. The reason? They were mostly all good looks and Tubby Smith has confidence that this team has plenty of capable threats from deep, most notably Dusty Hannahs and Rob Turner. Sure enough, the shots did fall three nights later. Tech hit 12-of-22 from three-point land, including four by Hannahs (4-7) and five from Turner (5-6).

Tech continues to do a great job of taking care of the basketball. In each of the first two games, they've committed seven first-half turnovers and just three in the second-half. Most any coach would take a 10 turnover per game average to the bank right now if they could have it -- Tech averaged a Big 12-worst 14.7 per game last year. How they fair against a ball-hawking guard of Trevor Releford's caliber will certainly be a major key to watch tonight.

OPPONENT STRENGTHS: Alabama's guard play is clearly its strength. As spotlighted below, Trevor Releford is an All-SEC talent and Bob Cousy Award Watch list as one of the nation's top point guards. Two-time JUCO All-American Algie Key has been a nice addition and went for 20 points in his Crimson Tide debut on Friday versus Oklahoma -- it had been 26 years since an Alabama player scored that much in his first career game. Bama doesn't have great post play yet. Six-foot-eight forward Nick Jacobs is their most productive big, a junior that really came on strong a year ago. Two Rivals150 freshmen, Jimmie Taylor and Shannon Hale, will grow into more prominent roles as the season goes on but did not greatly impact Friday's loss to Oklahoma. Seven-foot-one center Cal Engstrom is coming off a torn ACL and only logged six minutes versus the Sooners. Bama boasts some big wings with versatility, and relies on them for a larger part of their rebounding efforts than most.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rob Turner versus Trevor Releford. Releford is a senior stud who was not only an SEC All-Defensive teamer last year but made the Lefty Driesell list of Defensive All-Americans as well. As we said on the broadcast Monday, Turner was "hotter than the face of the sun" in the first half against Northern Arizona. If there's a guard on Tech's November schedule who could cool off Turner's sizzle, it's certainly Releford. He is the school's all-time steals leader (195) and can also fill it up, with over 1,300 career points. This year, Tech won't have to worry about Trevor Lacey who scored 21 points in Lubbock last season -- he transferred to N.C. State -- but the other half of Bama's Trevor-Twosome is alive and well in Tuscaloosa and could play a huge role tonight.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Like many matchups this season, Tech has an advantage in the post when it comes to both the quality and quantity of its bigs. It will be critical for the Red Raiders to take advantage of this by controlling the boards and pouring on points in the paint -- Tech has 93 through two games. Part of owning the inside is keeping your studs on the floor. Foul trouble hasn't been an issue for Jordan Tolbert so far this season, but it was -- particularly on the road -- a year ago. Keep JT active but out of foul trouble is important. Bama is good at heating up its opponents on defense and forcing turnovers that lead to run outs. Continuing to take good care of the ball will be key as well.


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