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November 18, 2013

Preview: TSU will pose challenge

Texas Tech (2-1) opens up the Progressive Legends Classic against a dangerous Texas Southern (2-2) Monday night in Lubbock.

WHEN: Monday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. CT
WHERE: Lubbock, Texas (United Spirit Arena)
RADIO/TV
: Texas Tech Sports Network (affiliates) / ESPNU
SERIES: First meeting.

TECH TRENDS: Texas Tech has looked a little like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from three-point land this season, with a cold-hot-cold start to the year from deep. The Red Raiders opened the season hitting 3-of-17 three-pointers against Houston Baptist, and then roared back with 12-of-22 three-pointers versus Northern Arizona a week ago. In that game, Rob Turner (5-of-6) and Dusty Hannahs (4-of-7) combined for 75 percent of the team's three-point makes. That same duo was a combined (1-of-9) in Tuscaloosa and the team connected on just 4-of-20 threes overall versus Alabama.

Limiting turnovers had been a real strength over the first two games (just 10 in each contest) before 16 turnovers at Alabama. This was not a surprise or an alarming number though, given Alabama Coach, Anthony Grant's style of pressuring and trapping. If anything, it was encouraging to see Rob Turner really settle in as the game went on after 3 early turnovers and none in the 2nd half. Tech also continues to score well in the paint - after 40 more points in the paint at Alabama, they are now averaging a little more than 44 per game down low.

OPPONENT STRENGTHS: Until Saturday's loss at Florida International, Texas Southern was shooting a whopping 46 percent from downtown. A 4-of-16 line at FIU cooled the Tigers' jets a bit, but this is still a talented club from deep with four legit shooters that could throw in multiple threes on any given night -- including 6-foot-10 West Virginia transfer Aaric Murray who is (8-of-21) this season from beyond the arc.

TSU is also a very good free throw shooting team, hitting just over 75 percent on the season. The Tigers have adequate size but, after Murray, are not especially long. They lost the rebound battle by 10 in their games against Norfolk State and Miami. Their biggest strength is the fact that they boast two Big 12-caliber talents in Oklahoma State transfer Ray Penn and Murray and have a head coach with Final Four experience in Mike Davis -- things SWAC teams typically don't boast.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jordan Tolbert versus Aaric Murray. Texas Tech will likely use a combination of bigs on Murray and, fortunately, all of the Red Raiders posts are athletic enough to come out from the basket and contest Murray's three-point shots. Murray has gone for 33 and 24 points in the Tigers' two wins and 16 and 22 in a pair of defeats. He had just one rebound versus Miami and didn't play particularly well versus Tech's bigs a year ago either -- 12 points and three boards in Lubbock, 11 points and eight rebounds in Morgantown -- but part of that had to do with him seemingly, constantly being in Bob Huggins' doghouse.

If too much attention is devoted to Murray, 6-foot-7 forward Jose Rodriguez -- the team's second leading scorer at 17 points per game -- can certainly put the team on his back as well. Ray Penn has been a streaky scorer from the guard position and is coming off his worst game -- 2-of-12 from the field, nine points, two assists -- but could erupt on any night, a la Trevor Releford. How Turner and the Tech guards handle him will be critical as well.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Red Raiders should be able to control the glass against the Tigers, but will need to defend the perimeter well with several Texas Southern players capable of burying threes. TSU is a good free shooting team too, so the Red Raiders can't do the Tigers any favors by sending them to the line a bunch.

Conversely, Tech got to the stripe just eight times versus Alabama. That has to get better in a hurry. Plus, with Texas Southern primarily using a seven-man rotation, depth is not a strength and foul trouble of any kind for TSU could be extremely detrimental to their chances.



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