A glimpse at Texas Tech before Oklahoma State visits the hottest team in the conference Wednesday:
What to watch for
Red-hot meets red-faced
No team in the Big 12 Conference — and perhaps the country — has been playing better than Texas Tech has the past two weeks.
The Red Raiders have won five in a row, all by double digits. Their average margin of victory is 25 points.
That includes a 78-50 win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, OSU heads to Lubbock, Texas, off one of the worst losses in school history, an 85-46 defeat at Kansas State.
The Cowboys are 1-6 in their past seven games. Five of the six losses have been by 12 or more points.
The best defense in the country
Texas Tech flustered Oklahoma State to no end on Feb. 13, holding the Cowboys to 50 points on 61 possessions.
That has been the Red Raiders’ signature under coach Chris Beard.
After ranking fourth in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency a year ago, Texas Tech is No. 1 in 2018-19.
In fact, according to KenPom.com, Texas Tech’s defense is college basketball’s most efficient since the 2014-15 Kentucky team. Those Wildcats began the year 38-0 before losing in the Final Four.
In conference play, Texas Tech is holding opponents to a 31.5 percent clip from 3-point range, the best in the league. It is also limiting them to 44.8 percent shooting on 2-pointers, second-best in the Big 12. And no Big 12 team forces turnovers or blocks shots as frequently as the Red Raiders.
Essentially, they do it all on that end of the floor.
A chance to influence two races
Oklahoma State is in the middle of a brutal stretch. After Wednesday, the Cowboys come home to host a Kansas team that just beat Kansas State by double digits.
It marks three consecutive games against the teams left contending for the Big 12 regular-season championship.
If OSU found a way to win either of the next two, it would have heavy influence on which team wins the conference.
The Cowboys will also have a chance to influence who wins the Big 12’s Player of the Year award.
After Saturday, Texas Tech sophomore Jarrett Culver might be the favorite. The projected NBA lottery pick scored 26 points in a blowout win over Kansas. He had 19 points on 12 shots against OSU earlier this month.
The Cowboys will see Culver’s closest competition this weekend in KU forward Dedric Lawson.
Players to watch
From Texas Tech: G Matt Mooney (10.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
Culver is the start, but Mooney is the player Oklahoma State must handle better than it did in the first meeting.
He knocked down all five of his 3-point attempts to finish with an efficient 15 points in the win.
A graduate transfer from South Dakota, the 6-foot-3 guard has been one of three important transfers to the Red Raiders (forward Tariq Owens and guard Brandone Francis, too). He ranks second behind Kansas State’s Barry Brown in steals per game (1.7) in the Big 12.
From Oklahoma State: G Lindy Waters (11.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
Waters will be glad to put February in the past after Wednesday.
The junior wasn’t a factor at Kansas State on Saturday, scoring a season-low two points on 1-of-3 shooting. He fouled out in 19 minutes played.
In seven February games, he’s averaging 9.3 points per game, though he’s still shooting better than 43 percent from 3-point range.
He averaged 14 points and shot 55 percent (22-of-40) from 3-point range in January.
Prediction: Texas Tech 76, Oklahoma State 57
Kansas State and Texas Tech, because of their ability to take away OSU’s strengths, have proven to be brutal matchups for the undermanned Cowboys. While Oklahoma State should play with more fire after the embarrassing final score on Saturday, it’s also running into the No. 11 team in the country — one with its sights set on a Big 12 championship.