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January 6, 2014

Preview: 'Eers come to town

Texas Tech (8-6, 0-1) has a chance to notch its first Big 12 win of the season tonight against West Virginia (9-5, 1-0).

WHEN: Monday, Jan. 6 at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Lubbock, Texas (United Spirit Arena)
RADIO/TV
: Texas Tech Sports Network (affiliates) / Big 12 Network
SERIES: West Virginia leads the all-time series 3-1. Tubby Smith is 2-0 against the Mountaineers.

TECH TRENDS: In Texas Tech's 73-62 loss to Iowa State, the Red Raiders failed to truly take advantage of their biggest advantages.

The team entered the game as the Big 12's best free throwing shooting team (74.5 percent) but only made it to the stripe eight times -- hitting six, right on par with its average. Following the game, Tubby Smith did not blame the officials for a lack of free throw opportunities for his team. Rather, Smith said his players were at fault for not taking it at the Cyclones more and initiating more whistles with their own aggressiveness.

While Tech did win the points in the paint category 34-32, they were held below their season output down low and Smith said the guards did not feed the post well. He noted that "it's a two-way street," saying that the posts need to hold their positioning longer and be a big target for the guards to enter the ball into. Smith felt neither the guards, nor the forwards did all they could to create deep catches and more high-percentage looks.

For the second straight game, the Red Raiders did a better job of contesting threes, holding ISU to 5-of-19 shooting from beyond the arc. Texas Tech shot the three-ball on par with it's season average (31 percent), nailing 6-of-20 attempts. The good news is that the six makes came from four different shooters and Dusty Hannahs got rolling again with three makes in seven tries.

OPPONENT STRENGTHS: Bob Huggins may no longer have the "Big Turk" Deniz Kilicli clogging the paint like he did a season ago, but several newcomers including Devin Williams have provided adequate inside play on a team whose true strength is it's guards.

The backcourt tandem of Eron Harris and Juwan Staten combines to average 35 points per game. Harris leads the league in scoring at 18.6 points per game and Staten is not far behind, checking in seventh in the league at 16.2 points per game and also leads the Big 12 in assist to turnover ratio at 3.54 to 1. Through non-conference play Staten was the Big 12's leader in assists.

While WVU doesn't make quite as many three's per game as ISU (exactly one fewer), they shoot an impressive 40 percent from beyond the arc and have numerous threats who shoot a high individual percentage, including Harris' 47 percent.

The Mountaineers also do a terrific job in taking care of the basketball, boasting a Big 12-best 9.6 turnovers per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rob Turner and Toddrick Gotcher versus Juwan Staten and Eron Harris. The Staten/Harris combo is one of the most productive guard tandems in the league and will present the biggest challenge for Texas Tech tonight. Not only is it critical to limit their offensive production, but the Red Raiders need to hold their own in these matchups on the offensive end as well.

Poor Rob Turner has had to chase around Arizona State's Jahii Carson and ISU's DeAndre Kane -- two of the nation's most productive PG's and toughest matchups -- over the last two weeks and in those games, his offensive contributions have been affected by all the extra energy he's had to expend on the defensive end of the floor. In Tempe, Turner was just 1-of-9 for three points while trying to stay in front of the speedy Carson. Saturday against the versatile 6-foot-4, 200-pound Kane, Turner was 0-of-6 and scoreless.

Turner can certainly benefit the Tech offense without scoring -- four assists, one turnover against ISU -- but, realistically, Tech will be hard pressed to win in Big 12 play unless they're getting more of a scoring punch from one of its best offensive catalysts.

It was great to see Dusty Hannahs step up with 16 points versus the Cyclones to boost a struggling backcourt, but the Red Raiders will need more from the floor general tonight, on both ends of the floor.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Eron Harris burned TCU on Saturday hitting four of his five three-point attempts en route to 22 points. With an average of almost three makes per game, he's a high-volume three point shooter and yet he does it at a 47 percent clip. Tech can ill-afford to see another Jermaine Marshall-like performance on the perimeter -- the Sun Devil hit 7-of-10 threes versus Tech -- and Harris is certainly capable of that tonight.

Inside, Huggins has replaced the graduated Kilicli and departed Aaric Murray (now at Texas Southern) very nicely with a pair of 6-foot-9 freshmen, Devin Williams and Nathan Adrian. WVU will boast more size than ISU did, but I still think Tech can win the battle down low, both on the glass and in post scoring. The Red Raiders must do a better job of getting Jordan Tolbert and Dejan Kravic touches inside -- they combined for just 10 shot attempts on Saturday -- and Tubby has clearly stressed that to the team over the last 48 hours.

Jaye Crockett needs just 17 points to join the 1,000 point club, and he's coming off another terrific outing after posting his 15th career double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds versus ISU. He'll likely draw the matchup on Terry Henderson who has scored in double-figures in six of his last seven games and is a better threat from deep than his 29 percent numbers would indicate. At first glance, this matchup may not appear as critical as the ones involving Harris and Staten, but the better small forward tonight could have big say in the outcome as well.

Finally, as mentioned above, Rob Turner has to have a big game -- particularly on offense. He doesn't have to be the guy that hit five threes versus Northern Arizona, but if he can score and create for others with his dribble penetration, while keeping the defense honest with the occasional outside jumper, it will go a long ways in igniting the Tech offense.


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