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January 20, 2009
Game Preview: CU, Tech hope to bust slumps
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Texas Tech was handed a devastating 22-point loss by Texas in their conference home opener on Saturday. The loss dropped the Red Raiders to 10-7 on the season and 0-2 in Big 12 play. Colorado visits Lubbock on Tuesday looking for their first conference win as well after losses to Missouri and Kansas .
SERIES VS. COLORADO
Colorado leads the overall series 16-11; the two teams have split the 12 meetings in Lubbock. Last meeting: Texas Tech 87-69 (February 20th, 2008, Boulder)
After back to back thirteen point games, shooting guard Nick Okorie struggled from the floor in the disappointing loss to Texas. The streaky junior was just 2-of-8 shooting and missed all three of his three point attempts. With Tech struggling to score for long stretches against the Longhorns, it is critical that Okorie step his offensive game up in order for the Red Raiders to secure their first conference victory.
Against Baylor it was evident how much better the Red Raiders are when Okorie is playing well. He went 6 for 11 on field goals and was arguably Tech's best player. Bringing that effort every night will be critical as the season goes on especially with the loss of Tyree Graham. Okorie will now be counted on to handle the ball more as well as occasionally run the offense. Effectively creating shots for himself as well as others is an area of his game on which Okorie must improve to make Pat Knight's offense run at its optimal level.
Colorado travels to Lubbock for a matchup between two teams looking for their first victory. The Buffs come to town as a youthful bunch that has been inconsistent for most of the season. Losses to Montana State, Vermont, and Buffalo have been the low points for the Buffs season. A 75-56 win over Colorado State is the lone decent win for a team that has failed to win a ball game against a team from one of the big six conferences.
Against opponents in common with the Red Raiders, Colorado is 0-2 with losses to Stanford and TCU. The Horned Frogs were able to limit the Buffs to just 46 points, Tech was able to put 80 on the Frogs. Against Stanford however, the performance was much better as they lost by 14 in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated. The Red Raiders on the other hand were run out of the gym by Stanford in a 45 point throttling.
Recently, the Colorado struggles have come on the defensive end. Against Missouri in the conference opener, the Buffs were scorched for a season high 107 points. They followed that performance up by giving up 73 points against Kansas. Both totals were above their season average which has risen to 66.9 points per game.
From a personnel standpoint, Colorado is severely limited on the offensive end. With only one player averaging over 12 points, the Buffaloes are ranked 11th in scoring offense in the Big 12 at 66.9 points per game. The offensive difficulties have led to Colorado being the only Big 12 team with a negative scoring margin (-.1).
Their number one weapon on offense is Cory Higgins (17.6 ppg). He is a 6-5 guard that also does a solid job of crashing the boards and pulling six boards per game. The number two option is Arlington (TX) Martin product Dwight Thorne. Thorne is a steady shooter that rarely forces shots. On the season, he is averaging 11.8 points per game on 53-percent shooting. Pressure defense can get to the guard duo as they are combining to average five turnovers per game while only averaging 4.6 assists.
In the post, Austin Dufault is having a solid freshman year, averaging 9.4 points per game. His shooting has been a bit shaky lately as he has gone just 14 for his last 39. His rebounding has been improving over the course of the season, and he has 5 or more boards in each of the last 4 outings. His performance against fellow freshman Robert Lewandowski will be a key matchup that both coaches will keep a close eye on.
THE THREE KEYS
1. Knock down open shots. Tech struggled mightily from the floor against UT shooting a season low 34-percent. Alan Voskuil and John Roberson have to hit their open jumpers to keep teams from being able to double Mike Singletary and Robert Lewandowski in the post.
2. Trevor Cook. The Red Raiders desperately need another scoring option to step up and contribute consistently on the offensive end. Trevor Cook has proven he can provide a scoring punch given the opportunity but has been hampered by a back injury for most of the season. His low post defense is also steady as he can come from the weak side to block shots.
3. Play with heart. Texas Tech must come out and play with energy and desire if they hope to record the first conference win. Coming out flat is a very real possibility after the disappointing blowout in their last game. This must be avoided because while Colorado is the Big 12's worst team, they will approach this game as their best chance to steal a Big 12 road game.
THE COLORADO LINE-UP
Guard - Nate Tomlinson - 6-2 freshman
Guard - Corey Higgins - 6-5 sophomore
Guard - Dwight Thorne - 6-2 junior
Forward - J.Jackson-Wilson - 6-6 senior
Forward/center - Austin Dufault - 6-8 freshman
Guard - Levin Knutson - 6-4 sophomore
Forward - Trey Eckloff - 6-9 freshman
Forward - Casey Crawford - 6-9 sophomore