After Texas Tech men’s basketball 76-53 loss to Pittsburgh in Brooklyn last week, the players called a team meeting.
“That loss just isn’t acceptable,” senior forward Jaye Crockett said. “We’ve had some losses in the past where we kind of just got comfortable losing. It’s not going to be that kind of year this year.”
Tech is currently 6-2, with the most wins in November since 2009, and take on No. 2 Arizona tonight at 8 p.m. central in Tucson.
The Wildcats, with an unblemished record of 7-0, are coming off a NIT Season Tip-Off tournament win, defeating then No. 6 Duke 72-66 in the championship game.
Junior guard Nick Johnson was named the tournament MVP and leads Arizona in scoring with 17 points per game.
Junior point guard T.J. McConnell joins Johnson in the backcourt to form one of the best duos in college basketball.
McConnell is a pass-first point guard, accumulating 45 assists to only 14 turnovers so far this season.
Freshman forward Aaron Gordon completes the three-man offensive front, averaging 12.1 points and 9.3 rebounds a game.
He scores most of his points off of offensive rebounds, he has 20 so far, and in transition.
Gordon leads Arizona on the boards, a team that ranks No. 4 nationally outrebounding its opponent by 13.6 a game.
“We have to try and keep them off the glass as much as we can,” junior forward Jordan Tolbert said. “They rebound really well.”
Sophomore forward Brandon Ashley can play inside-out for the Wildcats with the ability to post up strong and also stroke a jumper, averaging 11 points a contest.
Sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski rounds out the Wildcat starting five down low.
Tarczewski is a big target on the block but struggles when he gets the ball with both of his feet outside the paint.
Senior forward Dejan Kravic will start out defending Tarcewski and will have to keep him out of the paint.
Both teams like to score down low with 63.1 percent of Texas Tech’s points coming from the paint while Arizona nets 50.2 percent.
“We have to stop penetration and ball pressure from the guards and not let them get it in,” Tolbert said. “Then we have to play high and loose. Once they (forwards) get it we’re going to four-five trap them.”
Tech head coach Tubby Smith said that he expects to start the usual five – junior point guard Robert Turner, sophomore guard Dusty Hannahs, Crockett, Tolbert and Kravic – and that they will match up accordingly on defense.
“Gordon is such a long three-man at 6-foot-9 so Jaye will start on him,” Smith said. “As far as the matchups are concerned, they’ve got some quickness. McConnell is a really talented point guard transfer who can really push the ball up the court, a very heady player. Rob has kind of been a catalyst and engine to our pushing the ball and getting the ball up the court.
“If there’s a concern, it’s at the two spot. You have to defend a guy like Nick Johnson who’s an outstanding player. Dusty’s going to have to bring his best defensive game of the year in order to defend those guys.”
Tolbert will defend Ashley.
As far as Arizona’s defense is concerned,it limits opponents to 37.9 percent shooting inside the arc and 29.4 percent from beyond it.
The Red Raiders look to counter that with Crockett who is No. 8 nationally and leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage at .675 and Tolbert who follows at No. 2 in the conference with .643.
Smith has never coached a game in the McKale center but says he would like to “see a win.”
His players are on the same page.
“We’re not going no where to lose,” Tolbert said. “Going in with Tubby, going in with Jaye who’s playing real well, we’re not going in there to lose.”
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