Texas Tech Basketball: Keys To Defeating Kansas

LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 02: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 02: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk /

Texas Tech faces No. 8 Kansas with first place in the Big 12 on the line today.  Here are our keys to the game for the Red Raiders.

Free Throws

Texas Tech is a team that has made a living at the free throw line.  On the season, the Red Raiders have shot the most free throws in the Big 12 by a wide margin.  Tech’s 633 free throw attempts are 51 more than the next closest team, Oklahoma.  Tech has shot 169 more free throws than Kansas, which shoots far more jump shots.

However, in Tech’s past two games (both losses), Tech has stopped driving the ball to the rim.  Tech shot just 16 foul shots against Oklahoma State and 18 against Baylor.  In those two games, Tech was outscored from the charity stripe by 14 combined points.

That trend must reverse itself today.  When Tech beat Kansas in Lawrence, the Red Raiders were a  plus-four from the foul line.

Obviously, a hobbled Keenan Evans who missed the second half of the Baylor game and was not himself against Oklahoma State puts a damper on the Red Raiders’ ability to drive the ball to the rim.  However, just because Evans may be less than 100%, Tech must not take the easy way out and settle for jumpers.

The Red Raiders attempted 23 three-pointers Wednesday against Oklahoma State and that is a recipe for disaster.  If Tech is to be successful today, they must commit to driving the ball to the rim and getting to the foul line.

Attack Azubuike

One of the factors that makes this year’s Kansas team a bit less daunting than its teams from years past is its lack of depth in the post.  Kansas center Udoka Azubuike is a force in the paint but he is prone to picking up fouls.  He has found out twice in Big 12 play and on five other occasions he’s been called for four fouls.

He is a fantastic player averaging 14 points and 7 boards per game.  Likewise, he is also a tough shot-blocker with the ability to impact the opponent’s shot selection.

The key for Texas Tech will be to keep going at the big Kansas center.  That means that Norense Odiase must be aggressive with the ball and try to initiate contact, even if Azubuike has early success in blocking his shot.

Likewise, Tech’s guards and forwards must make a conscience decision to drive at the big man every time possible.  Putting Azubuike on the bench with foul trouble makes Kansas a completely different team.  Without him, the Jayhawks are a jump-shooting team with little physical presence inside.

Defending The Three In Transition

All season, Texas Tech has been fantastic with its perimeter defense.  That was until Tech went to Stillwater on Wednesday.

Oklahoma State is a poor team when forced to get baskets in the half-court set.  They had a game plan to get threes in transition and the plan worked to perfection.

The Cowboys hit 11 of 22 threes on the night including seven in a row during the second half run that blew the game open.  But against Kansas in January, Tech held the Jayhawks to 6-26 from deep.  That performance included 0-13 in the second half.

Kansas will shoot the three often and Tech must be ready to defend it.  KU has made the most threes in the Big 12 (286) and averages 10.2 threes per game.  They are second in the Big 12 in three-point percentage at 39%.

On the other hand, Texas Tech is the best team in the league at defending the three.  The Red Raiders hold opponents to just 31% shooting from behind the arc because the team has the ability to switch defenders on ball screens due to the versatility of the lineup.

This game is likely to be won from the three-point line.  If Tech is able to stymie KU with its perimeter defense again, the Red Raiders will be in good shape.