Texas Tech (10-10, 2-5) versus Kansas State (14-6, 4-3)
Where: Manhattan, Kansas, Bramlage Coliseum
When: 7 p.m. (CT) Tuesday
TV: Big 12 Network (U-Verse 14, Suddenlink 6, DirecTV 640, Dish 432)
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network from Learfield Sports
The Matchup: Kansas State got off to a rough start in 2013/14, but Bruce Weber’s club quickly righted the ship and the Wildcats have been a tough out ever since. The early sputtering saw KSU go 2-3 with losses to Northern Colorado, Charlotte and Georgetown. The season-opening defeat at the hands of Northern Colorado is Kansas State’s only home loss of the season; the Wildcats are 10-1 in Bramlage Coliseum. After that start, however, KSU won 10 straight, with wins over Gonzaga and Oklahoma State the high spots. Kansas snapped the winning streak, and the Wildcats have dropped two straight at Texas and Iowa State.
Much like Texas Tech, Kansas State has balanced scoring. Freshman guard Marcus Foster leads the Wildcats with 14 points per game, while Thomas Gipson and Shane Southwell both chip in 12 points per outing. Gipson is also KSU’s leading rebounder, pulling down six caroms per game. Guard Will Spradling has 51 assists on the season, with only 11 turnovers.
The Wildcats are a scrappy, physical defensive club and they hold opponents to 40-percent shooting and only 28 percent from three-point country. But Kansas State is no great shakes on offense, shooting a mere 42 percent from the floor themselves. KSU heaves up the treys with great frequency (25 per game), but only draw net 32 percent of the time.
The Wildcats can bring the beef up front with 265-pound Gipson and 250-pound freshman D. J. Johnson. There’s also length at the guard position with 6-foot-7 Shane Southwell.
Like Kansas State, Texas Tech also owns a two-game losing streak, with defeats at West Virginia and at home to Oklahoma. Poor defense against opposing guards, both defending jump shots and stopping penetration, plagued the Red Raiders in both of those losses. Point guard Robert Turner has been a decent scorer with 10 points per game, but has been a liability in half-court defense, and has only dished out 55 assists on the season. Freshman Randy Onwuasor is a better all-around defender than Turner, but turns the ball over too much and is a shaky shooter.
The Red Raiders strength lies inside where Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert do their work. Crockett averages 14 and six, Tolbert 12 and six. Seven games into Big 12 play and Tech still owns an impressive plus-four mark in rebounding margin. The Red Raiders also shoot 75 percent from the stripe.
Tech Player to Watch: True freshman forward Alex Foster bolstered Tech’s front line against Oklahoma with eight points and eight boards in only 14 minutes of play. If he is ready to emerge as a force, the Red Raider frontcourt suddenly becomes borderline fierce.
KSU Player to Watch: Off guard Shane Southwell is a very good all-around player. In addition to his 12 points per game, he grabs five rebounds per game, dishes out three assists per game, and records a steal and a blocked shot each time out.
Notable: Freshman guard Marcus Foster, KSU’s leading scorer, played his high school basketball up the road a piece from Lubbock in Wichita Falls.
Quotable: “Right now, I feel like our backs are against the wall and we just want to fight.” —Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett