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February 22, 2014

Preview: Tech heads to Stillwater

Texas Tech (13-13, 5-8) will try to get back on the winning track this afternoon against Oklahoma State (16-10, 4-9).

WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 22 at 12:47 p.m. CT
WHERE: Stillwater, Okla. (Gallagher-Iba Arena)
: Texas Tech Sports Network (affiliates) / Big 12 Network
SERIES: Oklahoma State leads the series 40-14. Tubby Smith is 2-4 all-time against the Pokes.

TECH TRENDS: The Red Raiders continue to hold the opposition well below their typical scoring output. On Tuesday, they held Kansas 16 points below its season average of  80 points per game and took Naadir Tharpe (1-of-7), Wayne Selden (2-of-8) and Perry Ellis (0-of-3) out of their usual groove. While the Red Raiders pace of play certainly aids in the lower scoring averages of the opposition, they also clearly defended well in this one -- holding KU seven percentage points lower than it's typical 52 field goal percentage in league play.

Jordan Tolbert's 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting served as a breakout game and was his best scoring output since going for 18 points against West Virginia on Jan. 6. He'd been building toward a breakout game of that sort with three solid performances in a row leading up to Tuesday night. While his numbers weren't huge in any of those contests, there was an apparent extra aggressiveness and energy to his game. Tuesday, with Jaye Crockett dealing with foul trouble, Tolbert stepped into the spotlight even more and turned in his best overall performance in league play. Here's hoping that trend of Tolbert's resurgence continues today.

One trend that was snapped in a good way was Texas Tech's struggles from beyond the arc. The Red Raiders hadn't posted a game of 40-plus percent from distance since Jan. 22 at West Virginia -- Dusty Hannahs' 7-for-7 certainly helped on that night. On Tuesday though, Tech connected on 6-of-12 threes.

OPPONENT STRENGTHS: Nobody could have forecasted a seven-game losing streak for Oklahoma State when the preseason Big 12 coaches poll picked them as co-favorites with Kansas to win the league. Obviously, no one saw the Marcus Smart's implosion coming back in October either.

Even with Smart back today, the Pokes still lacks a strong backline defensively -- Michael Cobbins' Achilles injury in December continues to haunt this team.

Where the Cowboys are great though is on the perimeter and getting Smart back means the league's top steals team has its best pocket picker on the floor. OSU does a great job of contesting threes and is tied with Texas for the second best field goal percentage defense in the league at 40.1.

The Cowboys are also one of the league's top scoring offenses although Tech held them to a season-low 61 in the first meeting.

Despite the losing streak, the Cowboys still lead the league in scoring margin (plus-11.4) which is obviously skewed by a dominant non-con slate.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rob Turner versus Marcus Smart. You knew we had to mention here Marcus, right? The USBWA's preseason National Player of the Year makes his return today from the three game suspension he received following his late-game incident involving a Texas Tech fan on Feb. 8. What version of Marcus Smart will we see? Certainly he'll be motivated, but will he be overly amped? Can Rob Turner stay in front of him without fouling and perhaps draw a charge or two if Smart tries to do too much?

Just as important is making sure Turner or any other Red Raider doesn't let the anticipated atmosphere, jeers or Smart's actions take them out of their game. Turner has proven to be smarter than that (no pun intended) and shouldn't get baited into losing his cool, but the possibility exists, nonetheless.

Speaking strictly to the matchup, Turner, Toddrick Gotcher and Jamal Williams all saw time on Smart in the first meeting and it was Williams that was manning up on him late. Whoever is on Smart today must do his best to keep him out of the paint. When Smart gets deep dribble penetration, he's likely to either get a bucket for a teammate or himself, or draw contact and get to the stripe. Smart attempted 10 free throws in Lubbock -- getting nine of his 22 points from the foul line. OSU leads the league in free throws attempted and made per game and Smart is the biggest reason why.

Having said that, it'll be interesting to see how the officials treat Smart in his first game back. He may not command the same whistle he did before the altercation.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Beyond not getting sucked into the anticipated fan response and any jawing that may or may not occur on the floor, Tech must execute some the same things they did against OSU in Lubbock. In that game, the Red Raiders and Cowboys were even on the boards, but Tech controlled the points in the paint by 10. Tubby Smith's team also turned the Cowboys over 15 times and capitalized on those mistakes with a 19-to-9 edge in points off turnovers.

The Red Raiders also limited Markel Brown's quality looks from deep (1-of-2) a year after Brown torched Tech for seven threes at the United Spirit Arena. Phil Forte was able to connect on 3-of-7 3-point tries, but he's capable of much more at home, where he's been a much deadlier shooter in his two seasons as a Cowboy.

Additionally, Tech must stay away from the live ball turnovers that plagued them in their last road game -- leading to 20 Iowa State points off turnovers -- in Ames. As mentioned earlier, OSU is the league's top team at gathering steals (7.2 per) and they can turn defense into offense in a hurry if you give them the chance.

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