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December 15, 2013

Preview: Raiders back from break

Texas Tech (6-3) ends its finals break with a home tilt against Central Arkansas (2-4).

WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 15 at 1 p.m.
WHERE: Lubbock, Texas (United Spirit Arena)
: Texas Tech Sports Network (affiliates) / FSSW+
SERIES: This is the first meeting between the two schools. Tubby Smith has never faced UCA.

TECH TRENDS: Texas Tech's rebounding efforts had been trending upwards until its last game at Arizona. The Wildcats, now ranked No. 1 in the country, dominated the glass 43-23 and topped the Red Raiders 15-6 in second chance points. Tech won't face frontcourts like that on many nights this season, but Tubby Smith clearly won't stand for a minus-20 rebound margin no matter who his team is facing.

Another area of concern is three-point shooting. Tech is shooting just under 31 percent from beyond the arc so far this season and hit just one three in 11 tries in Tucson. Smith would like to see his team hitting from downtown at a 40 percent or better clip, and Dusty Hannahs said Friday that he's putting a lot of that on himself and is working hard between games to raise his own percentage -- currently a respectable 35.3 percent but down four percentage points from last year.

At Arizona, Tech continued to raise it's team free throw percentage, hitting 15-of-19 attempts for 79 percent. The club is now shooting 71 percent on the year -- a dramatic improvement from the 59 percent they posted over the first two weeks of the season.

OPPONENT STRENGTHS: Clarence Finley's first team at UCA hasn't rebounded well or taken care of the basketball, but to borrow a quote from ESPN's The Rick, the Bears "have been known to stick the three." They're not an outstanding three-point shooting team by any means, but their 38 percent rate from deep is certainly respectable -- third best in the Southland Conference -- and jumps off the page compared to their other season numbers. Additionally, their 8.8 threes per game ranks first in the Southland Conference.

While famous alum Scottie Pippen isn't walking through that door this afternoon, this Bears team does boast three players that shoot 45 percent or better from beyond the arc and if the threes are falling early, they could compete with Tech for longer than anticipated. Nearly 90 percent of the club's scoring from a year ago is gone though, so this is still a young team in the process of defining new roles.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jalen Jackson versus Jaye Crockett. UCA's freshman forward leads the Southland Conference in three-point percentage (51.9) and ranks in the conference's top 20 in seven different categories. Jackson, UCA's top scorer at 14.3 points per game, is the 10th-best shooter in the league and can score both inside and out, not unlike Crockett. The Tech senior paces his team in points (14.1 per game) and rebounds (6.8 per game) and entered the weekend ninth in the nation in field goal percentage (66.0).

There's less pressure on Crockett to maintain those numbers in this matchup because the Red Raiders boast more scoring options than UCA, but which small forward meets or exceeds his averages could have a say in determining how sizeable the final margin happens to be. Defensively, Crockett will need to use his length to contest Jackson's attempts (4.5 per game) from deep, as we'll discuss more below.

KEYS TO THE GAME: In UCA's last game, Kansas State out-boarded the Bears by 30 and scored 42 points in the paint. The Bears start a pair of 6-foot-7 players but will fall short of Tech's height, strength and athleticism in just about every frontcourt matchup. Tech needs to capitalize on this advantage and own the boards this afternoon. The Red Raiders will need to dominate in the paint like we saw many times over the first eight games of the year.

UCA is also a team that's prone to turning the ball over at an alarming rate (17.2 per game), making this matchup one in which run outs and points off turnovers could come in bunches.

Tech must defend the perimeter well, as the Bears shoot 38 percent from downtown. UCA would love to utilize the most common theme in upsets by big underdogs: the great equalizer, the three point shot. David slew Goliath with a sling and a stone, but he did it from three-point range. Tech needs to contest those deep stone throws this afternoon.

Texas Tech NEWS


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