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Mens basketball preview: Point guards fuel Red Raiders' improvement

Posted: February 11, 2014 - 10:34pm  |  Updated: February 12, 2014 - 1:50am
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Oklahoma's Buddy Hield, left, and Cameron Clark, right,  put pressure on Texas Tech's Robert Turner during their game in Lubbock Saturday. (Tori Eichberger /AJ Media)   Tori Eichberger AJ/Media
Tori Eichberger AJ/Media
Oklahoma's Buddy Hield, left, and Cameron Clark, right, put pressure on Texas Tech's Robert Turner during their game in Lubbock Saturday. (Tori Eichberger /AJ Media)
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Texas Tech men’s basketball head coach Tubby Smith is quickly turning the Red Raider program around, led by a pair of first-year point guards in junior Robert Turner and freshman Randy Onwuasor.

Neither one was around last year for an 11-30 season or in 2011-12 for an 8-23 season.

However, they have already led Tech to 12 wins, four of them in Big 12 play and two of them over AP top-25 teams.

“I thought Randy’s play was outstanding and so was Rob’s against a very talented Oklahoma State team,” Smith said. “I think that was the key to us winning. Those guys were finding people open.”

Turner led New Mexico Junior College to the NJCAA National Tournament last season, averaging 9.8 points, 2.3 boards and 2.9 assists on the season.

Currently, he averages 9.6 points per game and leads the team with 62 assists and 32 steals.

“Rob’s just doing great,” sophomore guard Dusty Hannahs said. “He’s a leader on the court. He’s vocal. He always brings energy. He leads our team in deflections on defense which shows his activity on defense is supreme. He’s just someone you have a lot of confidence in.”

During Big 12 play, Turner averages 29.6 minutes while Onwuasor records 11.4.

While that isn’t much, Onwuasor’s strong play is important for Tech.

Onwuasor is only averaging 3.5 points per game and hesitates to pull the trigger from behind the arc (3-of-14); however, his aggressive dribble drives often open up his teammates.

“As every game comes along, he just progresses even more,” Turner said. “We’re very confident when he’s in the game and know he’s going to make big plays which is real big.”

In tonight’s game against Oklahoma, this duo will be matched up against freshman Jordan Woodard who leads Big 12 freshmen and sophomores and ranks No. 5 overall in assists (4.8).

He is also the third leading scorer for the Sooners with 11.7 points per contest.

“Rob gives us the strength and the maturity, the physical maturity,” Smith said. “But then again, Randy is becoming a pretty strong, pretty mature player as well. I like the matchup there against Jordan Woodard. It’s going to be a tough one, but he’s a freshman who’s playing outstanding basketball to be a freshman.”

Another first-year player that has been big for Oklahoma is sophomore forward Ryan Spangler, who transferred from Gonzaga.

Spangler is averaging 10.0 points and a conference leading 10.0 rebounds per game.

He’s the only player in the Big 12, and one of 14 nationally, who is averaging a double-double.

When asked if Tech will double down on Spangler, Turner said it would happen when the time comes for it.

“If he’s outside the paint, we’re not going to worry about it too much,” Turner said. “Once he gets one foot in the lane or something, we’ll be coming at him with a trap.”

The Sooners have a definite presence inside with Spangler, but they also can run the other four players out on the perimeter.

“Their main offense is dribble drive and a kick to shooters like Hield and Cousins,” Turner said. “We have to contain them on the drive and make sure we get out to shooters.”

Senior forward Cameron Clark at 6-foot-7 can post up down low or drain a shot from three, shooting 43.9 percent from deep.

Sophomore guards Cousins and Hield are making 38.1 and 39.9 percent respectively from behind the arc.

Hield leads Oklahoma and is No. 5 in the conference with 17.0 points per contest, and during his last three games is averaging 21.3 points.

“Stay in front of him,” Hannahs said. “He’s a very aggressive driver and he’s shown that he can knock down the three-ball pretty consistently too. Someone like that, he’s going to be a tough one to guard, but you’ve got to get touch and be physical and try not to let him get his.”

krista.pirtle@lubbockonline.com

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College basketball

Who: Texas Tech at Oklahoma

When: 7 p.m. tonight

Where: Lloyd Noble Center, Norman

Records: Tech 12-11 overall, 4-6 in Big 12; OU 18-6 overall, 7-4 in Big 12

Last meeting: OU 74, Tech 65 on Jan. 25, 2014

TV: Big 12 Network

Radio: 104.3 FM, 93.7 FM and 950 AM

Twitter: @AJ_KristaPirtle

Tech OU

71.7 Scoring 83.8

68.6 Opponent scoring 77.4

.466 Field goal pct. .453

.327 3-point pct. .377

.743 Free throw pct. .749

33.3 Rebounds 38.7

12.0 Assists 14.3

11.7 Turnovers 11.9

6.0 Steals 6.9

4.1 Blocks 3.5

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