Game Plane: How Texas Tech Can Beat Purdue

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 17: Jarrett Culver
DALLAS, TX - MARCH 17: Jarrett Culver /

The Texas Tech basketball team will face Purdue tonight in the Sweet 16 in Boston.  Below is a game plan for how the Red Raiders can prevail.

Texas Tech finds itself in the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in program history and the first time in 13 years.  This season has been memorable as Texas Tech reached the highest ranking in program history and spent more weeks in the top 10 than in any other season.  Now, if the run is to continue, Tech will have to knock off an excellent Purdue squad.  Here are some keys to the game for the Red Raiders.

Win at the Free Throw Line

Let’s just address the elephant in the room.  If Texas Tech does not improve at the free throw line, eventually it will cost them dearly.

During the NCAA Tournament, Tech has continued a troubling trend that has seen them struggle to hit foul shots. The Red Raiders have hit just 58.3% of their free throws in the tournament leaving 17 points at the line in the two games combined.

Purdue is statistically an above average foul shooting team ranking No. 72 in the nation at 74.1%.  The Boilermakers average just over 20 attempts from the line per game.  Meanwhile, Tech shoots 22.4 free throws per game but is making just 69.6%.

Purdue is a better three-point shooting team than Tech hitting 9.6 per game to Tech’s 7 per game. That means Tech will need to make up the likely difference somewhere and the free throw line would be a great place to start.  Tech will be in great shape if it can hit 75% of its free throws and have an advantage of at least five points from the line.

Attack Haarms

With Purdue’s star center Isaac Haas unlikely to play due to a broken elbow, freshman center Matt Haarms will have to carry most of the burden in the post.  The native of The Netherlands has averaged 17.0 minutes per game with his most action being 29 versus Butler in round two.

On nine occasions this season, the 7-foot-3 Haarms has recorded at least four fouls (fouling out once).  That is a high number of fouls for a backup player and shows that Texas Tech can get Haarms in foul trouble.

Putting Haarms on the bench will accomplish quite a number of positives for the Red Raiders.  It will take Purdue’s only rim protector out of the mix and limit the Boilermakers’ ability to rebound and score inside.

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Plus, taking Haarms off the court will allow Tech to go to its small lineup with Zach Smith as the only post player on the floor.  This lineup has proven to be Chris Beard’s most effective because of its defensive versatility and its overall athleticism.

The injury to Haas has turned one of Purdue’s greatest strengths, post play, into a concern for the Big 10 runners up and Texas Tech would be wise to go right at Haarms with aggressive drives to the rim.

Stay Home On Defense

As stated earlier, Purdue is a dangerous three-point shooting team.  That means perimeter defense is going to be critical for the Red Raiders.

At times, Tech has struggled to defend spot-up shooters because it has been guilty of over-helping on defense.  In other words, when a guard beats a defender off the dribble, often other Red Raiders leave their man open at the three-point line to help stop the penetration.

That is not a wise strategy against Purdue.  There are four players on the Purdue roster shooting over 40% from three meaning Tech will need to make sure its defensive rotations are solid and swift.

Tech can ill afford to leave Purdue shooters open.  Even if Purdue’s excellent point guard Carsen Edwards is able to get to the lane, it would be smart for Tech to try to force him into a tough look from the paint rather than giving up an open three.

Purdue is a team Texas Tech can’t beat if the Red Raiders allow it to get hot from deep.  Fans need look no further than last night’s Michigan win over Texas A&M as a cautionary tale.  The Wolverines hit 14-24 (58.8%) from three last night en route to an easy 99-72 win in the Sweet 16. Most of Michigan’s threes were wide open looks and they buried them with ease.

The difference between A&M and Tech is that the Aggies are built to be stout inside meaning they are a bit slow on the perimeter.  Plus, they looked lazy in their defensive rotations last night.

Tech is built to be stellar defensively on the perimeter and effort is never a question on the defensive end of the court.  Where Tech must be solid is in knowing when one is guarding a dangerous shooter and ensuring proper proximity to the shooter is maintained at all times.


Texas Tech finds itself in a much different situation this weekend than last.  The crowd in Boston will not be a home crowd as was the Dallas throng meaning Tech will have to depend on each other for energy and excitement.

What is comforting for Tech is that Purdue’s biggest advantage on paper, size inside, has been significantly negated by Haas’ injury.  Red Raider fans know all to well how such an injury can impact a team considering the injuries suffered by Zach Smith and Keenan Evans.  Still, Purdue was able to overcome Haas’ absence against Butler proving they remain a tough out.

Ultimately, the game could come down to which point guard makes the big shots down the stretch.  That’s where Texas Tech fans feel confident in their senior Keenan Evans to step up as he’s done all season.  A late Evans and-one bucket proves to be the difference in this one.

Final Score: Texas Tech: 75  Purdue: 70