No. 7 Texas Tech looks to keep up with Kansas State

With plenty at stake for each team, No. 7 Texas Tech travels to Kansas State on Saturday evening in a key Big 12 matchup at Manhattan, Kan.

The Red Raiders (20-4, 8-3 Big 12) are tied with Kansas for the top spot in the conference, while Kansas State is tied with Oklahoma for fourth place.

Three of the next four games for Texas Tech are on the road, including Saturday’s game, so a 76-58 victory over Iowa State was more than just another win.

“It’s a special time of the year for college basketball when you’re relative,” Tech coach Chris Beard said following Wednesday’s victory. “We’ve worked really hard in our second year here, and I think we’re relative in the month of February. I’m pleased to win tonight.

Kansas State (17-7, 6-5), meanwhile, earned a 67-64 victory Wednesday at Texas, thanks to a 9-0 run late in the second half that turned a 54-50 deficit into a lead the Wildcats did not relinquish. It was especially helpful for the Wildcats, as they had lost two straight games by double digits.

“Obviously we lost two in a row,” head coach Bruce Weber said following the Texas game. “If you watch the league, everybody has hit a bit of a lull somewhere. To lose to Kansas and West Virginia, a top-10 and a top-20 team, is not a crisis.

“But I didn’t think we played like we’re capable (of playing in those games). I just challenged (the players) all week about fighting and battling and competing, all those words that coaches use. I thought they played with poise (tonight). We got big stops that got us in transition, and we were able to get some baskets out of transition.”

Texas Tech has been at or near the top of the standings in the Big 12 all season long. The Red Raiders own the tiebreaker over Kansas by virtue of a 85-73 victory in Lawrence, Kan., on Jan 2. The two teams meet Feb. 24 in Lubbock, Texas.

Tech has been doing it on both ends of the floor. The Red Raiders lead the conference in scoring margin (14.0 points per game) in all games and are second (4.8 ppg) in conference games.

“You can’t win in this league if you rely (only) on your offense to score enough points to win,” Beard said. “Some games in this league you have to score 70 points, sometimes 80. You might even need to score 90 points to win. You can never just rely on your offense to get those points. You have to produce offense from your defense. Tonight, in key moments, that seemed to be the case. That goes back to being aggressive and playing the game the right way.”

The Wildcats have been up and down. They went 11-2 in the non-conference season, albeit with one of the easiest schedules in all of Division I. They won their conference opener before losing at home to West Virginia and at Texas Tech 74-58 in the game where starting point guard Kamau Stokes broke his foot.

Kansas State responded by winning five of six before the two-game skid vs. Kansas and West Virginia. With Saturday’s game being the last against the three teams in front of them in the standings, the Wildcats have their future in their own hands. A win against another top-10 team would certainly help their NCAA tournament resume.