Texas Tech (8-5) vs. Iowa State (12-0)
Where: United Spirit Arena, Lubbock, TX
When: 12:30 p.m. (CT), Saturday
TV: Big 12 Sports Network
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network from Learfield Sports
The Matchup: Texas Tech’s rugged non-conference schedule is through; now its brutal conference slate begins, and it opens with a home tilt against the undefeated, 13th ranked Iowa State Cyclones. The Red Raiders pulled the upset against ISU in Lubbock last season and a win this year would qualify as an even greater surprise.
The Cyclones, who have beaten the likes of Michigan, BYU, Auburn and Iowa (their only close shave was an overtime battle against the University of Northern Iowa), are among the nation’s elite in multiple categories. ISU is first in assists, first in assist/turnover ratio, second in scoring and ninth in scoring margin (20.6). And beware the Clones in the second half; they are plus-140 points for the season in that stanza. In short, Fred Hoiberg has built a well-oiled machine that closes with a rush.
Forward Melvin Ejim leads Iowa State in scoring with 18 points per game to go along with eight boards per contest. Georges Niang, who has been hot of late, averages 16 points per contest and has a two-to-one assist/turnover ratio. Guard DeAndre Kane averages 16 points, 6.1 assists and an astonishing 7.5 rebounds per contest. Leading rebounder Dustin Hogue pulls down 9.8 caroms per outing, while Naz Long, lives up to his name by bombing in 49 percent of his three-point attempts. Hoiberg employs a seven-man rotation.
The Red Raiders played one of their best games in their last outing, pounding Mount Saint Mary’s by 31 points in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates. Tech, which scores 74 points per contest, is not an offensive dynamo, but has played solid defense, and rebounded exceptionally well. The Red Raiders are balanced offensively, however, with Jaye Crockett, Jordan Tolbert and Robert Turner all averaging in double digits. Crockett and Tolbert, who average six and seven boards per game respectively, have keyed Tech’s rebounding efforts, although Dejan Kravic, who averages 4.4 rebounds per contest, is coming on in this area. The Red Raiders also shoot 75 percent from the free throw line.
Tech Player to Watch: Big man Kader Tapsoba is quietly developing into a nice player. He only plays 12 minutes per game, but shoots 63 percent from the floor, 75 percent from the charity stripe, and has 12 blocked shots. Most important, Tapsoba’s footwork has improved dramatically, and as a consequence, he now is a legitimate scoring threat inside, even if his overall stats don’t reflect that.
ISU Player to Watch: Point guard DeAndre Kane, who moved on to ISU after graduating from Marshall, has been a miniature Magic Johnson thus far. His 16 points, six assists and 7.5 rebounds per game make him perhaps the most complete player in the Big 12, while his 2.7 assist-to-turnover ratio marks him as a bona fide pure point guard.
Notable: If Iowa State defeats Texas Tech, the Cyclone basketball program will move to .500 overall for the first time since 1908.
Quotable: “I think the story about Texas Tech’s big men is how much better they’ve gotten throughout the course of the year. One of the things we’ve noticed on film is how much better their bigs have gotten. They have great size and leverage inside. They’re one of the few teams that we’ve played this year that’s been able to take advantage of our lack of size on the inside” —Mount Saint Mary’s coach Jamion Christian.