Abilene Christian-Texas Tech Preview

Through 11 games, Texas Tech has had a successful run in nonconference action.

The No. 21 Red Raiders have avoided the upset bug since re-entering the Top 25 last week and have bullet-point victories over then-No. 20 Northwestern (85-49) and then No. 22 Nevada, 82-76 in overtime.

Texas Tech has also seen a couple of its opponents go on to post eye-catching upset wins as Boston College defeated Duke earlier this month, and Wofford topped North Carolina on Wednesday night.

All that’s left for the Red Raiders (10-1) before they break for Christmas is an afternoon home game against Abilene Christian (8-4) on Friday at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

It’s an ideal pre-holiday matchup for both programs as Abilene Christian is relatively close to Lubbock — the two campuses are 168 miles apart, a short trip in the wide-open spaces of west Texas.

And it’s a meaningful one for Texas Tech coach Chris Beard, who was an assistant coach at Abilene Christian during the 1996-97 season.

“(Abilene Christian coach Joe Golding) is also a personal friend of mine, one of my best friends,” Beard said. “A lot of relationships. ACU is a team that I always pull for, but obviously not this game.”

Abilene Christian moved up to NCAA Division I when it joined the Southland Conference for the 2013-14 season. The Wildcats have yet to achieve a winning season at the top level of college basketball since they elevated, though they improved from two wins in the Southland in their first season to a peak of an 8-10 record in conference two years ago.

Abilene Christian enters Friday’s game having won five of its last six, including victories over Bowling Green, Air Force and Texas State. Versatile center Jalone Friday, who leads the Wildcats with 15.6 points per game, can score from beyond the arc as well as in the interior. Friday is shooting 42 percent from 3-point range with 21 made treys.

The Wildcats will be one of Texas Tech’s few opponents so far that can match the Red Raiders’ frenetic substitutions. Abilene Christian uses a 10-player rotation with nine players averaging four or more points.

The Red Raiders seem to be fine-tuning their ability to get waves of players involved in scoring. In Texas Tech’s 90-54 win over Florida Atlantic on Tuesday, it had six players score in double figures, including three starters and three reserves.

Guard Keenan Evans leads the Red Raiders in scoring and assists with 17 points and 3.9 dimes per game. But Texas Tech has shown it can produce even when Evans has an off night. He didn’t score in 22 minutes of action against Savannah State, but the Red Raiders prevailed 103-69.

Beard likes what he has seen from his team on both ends of the floor.

“Balance has been good,” Beard said. “We’ve gotten contributions from a lot of different guys on our roster. I think we’re defending at a high level right now.”

Following Friday’s game, Texas Tech will have a week off before opening Big 12 play at home against No. 18 Baylor on Dec. 29. Abilene Christian begins Southland action at New Orleans on Dec. 28.