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November 21, 2013

Preview: Final pre-Brooklyn tune-up

Texas Tech (3-1) faces its final pre-Brooklyn tune-up Thursday night against South Dakota State (1-3).

WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. CT
WHERE: Lubbock, Texas (United Spirit Arena)
RADIO/TV
: Texas Tech Sports Network (affiliates) / FSSW+
SERIES: Texas Tech leads the all-time series 2-0; Tubby Smith is 7-0 all-time against SDSU

TECH TRENDS: Texas Tech has done an excellent job taking care of the basketball this season, averaging just 10.3 turnovers per game -- second best in the league behind West Virginia (9.3). The Red Raiders turned in their lowest turnover tally in almost a decade Monday night against Texas Southern, giving it up only five times all game. Tech also tied a school-record with 12 blocked shots (1998 vs. Pepperdine) and, with the new handchecking rules allowing for more dribble penetration and requiring more help defenders to slide over and make plays, block totals could be on the climb this season.

The Red Raiders did a much better job of getting to the foul line on Monday (27 attempts) after just eight free throw chances in Tuscaloosa. They also continued their dominance in the paint (42 points) and are still averaging about 44 points in the paint per game. Three-point shooting remains streaky. Tech was 4-of-13 on Monday (31 percent) and missed their first five attempts before Aaron Ross got the lid off the hoop and Dusty Hannahs drained three treys in the second half.

OPPONENT STRENGTHS: The 1-3 Jackrabbits are still adjusting to life after Nate Wolters -- the school's all-time leading scorer (2,363 points) and assist man (669 assists) -- who helped lead them to the NCAA tournament last season. The 25-10 Summit League champs lost to Michigan in the round of 64, but return several seniors who played a year ago.

In fact, four of their five starters are seniors and not only are they experienced but they're also big. Point guard Brayden Carlson is a 6-foot-4 senior. He's their shortest starter on a team whose average height in the starting lineup is 6-foot-7.

SDSU also boasts a balanced scoring attack. Four of the team's five starters average double figures with senior center Marcus Heemstra bringing up the rear at eight points per game. They rebound well (plus-four) but haven't yet faced the type of athleticism they'll see tonight with the Tech front line and wings.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jaye Crockett versus Jordan Dykstra. The Jackrabbits' three-man leads the team in scoring (17 points per game) and rebounding (8.8 per game). He's coming off of his 13th career double-double -- 21 points and 12 rebounds against Southwest Minnesota State.

Crockett was one point shy of a career high on Monday night (21 points) and added seven boards as well. Crockett will offer more size and athleticism than Dykstra has faced thus far this year and the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Jackrabbit will have his hands full, rebounding against a bevy of Tech bigs when you add in Jordan Tolbert, Dejan Kravic, Kader Tapsoba, etc.

Tolbert is hungry to hit the floor again after playing just 20 minutes against Texas Southern because of foul trouble (11 points, five rebounds) and has told me he's motivated to have a big game. For SDSU, 6-foot-9 posts Cody Larson and Marcus Heemstra will be competing for boards as well. Also, keep an eye on the point guard matchup of Rob Turner versus Carlson. Both are scoring about 16 a game and shooting at a high clip (Turner at 54 percent, Carlson at 53 percent).

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Red Raiders have been outrebounded in back-to-back games and tonight could make it three in a row because of the Jackrabbits' size. Tech will need to take advantage of its superior athleticism in trying to win the battle on the boards.

With Wolters gone to the NBA, the Jackrabbits have limped to a 1-3 start and turned the ball over 15 times per game in the process. It will be important to cash in on those miscues as transition points off turnovers could help the Red Raiders build an early lead. The Red Raiders' chances of getting their fourth win of the season will also be helped if they can convert more than 59 percent of their free throws -- ninth in the Big 12.



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