Texas Tech basketball must continue to limit turnovers to beat KU

<> at United Spirit Arena on January 8, 2019 in Lubbock, Texas.
<> at United Spirit Arena on January 8, 2019 in Lubbock, Texas. /

The Texas Tech basketball team has taken excellent care of the basketball in its last two games and that trend must continue if the Red Raiders are to beat Kansas Saturday night in Lubbock.

Quite a bit has gone right for the Texas Tech basketball team during its current 4-game winning streak.  But overshadowed by the Red Raiders’ hot 3-point shooting and stifling defense has been the fact that they are protecting the basketball as well as they have all season.

On the year, Tech is averaging just 13 turnovers per game and leads the Big 12 in turnover margin at +3.3.  And in the last three games, Tech has been even better, turning the ball over just 10 times per game.

After an ugly 21-turnover performance agains West Virginia, Tech rebounded by giving the ball away 14 times against Oklahoma in Norman.  The next game, the Red Raiders committed only seven turnovers against Oklahoma State and Saturday against Baylor, Chris Beard’s team gave the ball away just nine times.  (And three of those came from Avery Benson and Malik Ondigo, neither of which are regular rotation players and both of whom saw extended action in garbage time.)

Not surprisingly, when Texas Tech has been at its worst, turnovers have been an issue.  In Tech’s five losses this year, Beard’s team has committed an average of 14.8 giveaways.  That includes 24 against Duke and 17 against Baylor in Waco.

Saturday night, Tech must be certain to take care of the ball against a Kansas team that has already proven capable of scoring on the vaunted Texas Tech defense.  In the teams’ first meeting this year, the Jayhawks went berserk from 3-point range, especially in the first half, hitting 13-30 from deep en route to scoring 79 points in a 16-point win.

Certainly, no one expects KU to shoot that well from deep in Lubbock but the fact remains that Tech will likely have to be efficient on the offensive end to keep pace with the Jayhawks.  Kansas is the No. 2 scoring team in the Big 12 at 76.9 points per game.

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That could be a problem for a Texas Tech team that has only topped 76 points four times in Big 12 play.  What’s more, of those four instances, three have come against teams in the bottom four of the conference standings.  But the good news is that Tech has averaged 82 points in each of its last two games.

Making it more difficult to take care of the ball Saturday could be the return of Marcus Garrett.  The sophomore from Dallas, who is the Jayhawks’ top perimeter defender, has not played since January 29th and did not face the Red Raiders in Lawrence but may be ready to return this weekend.

In the February 2nd game at Allen Fieldhouse, the Red Raiders’ problem was not necessarily giving the ball away; they committed only 11 turnovers.  Rather it was a combination of awful shooting from the outside and poor perimeter defense that doomed the good guys.

But Tech can ill afford to be sloppy with the ball Saturday night.  The offense simply can’t become a liability.  And for a team like Texas Tech, which does not have multiple players capable of getting their own shots, each possession needs to end in a quality look.

What’s more, Kansas is deadly when initiating offense off of live ball turnovers.  If Tech allows KU to have tons of transition opportunities, it could neutralize Tech’s stingy defense by allowing the Jayhawks to get offense before the Red Raiders can establish their defensive positioning.

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Therefore, in this top-15 matchup, keep a close eye on how well Texas Tech protects the ball.  If the Red Raiders can continue to value the ball as they have in recent games, it will bode well for their chances of picking up perhaps their biggest win of the season.