Texas Tech hoping Evans available against Oklahoma State (Feb 20, 2018)
Texas Tech has found itself in a new position several times this season.
For example, the Red Raiders had a one-game lead over second-place Kansas in the Big 12 last week before the Jayhawks came from behind to defeat West Virginia and Texas Tech lost to Baylor on Saturday. But Chris Beard's Red Raiders are still just a half game back of Kansas going into their Wednesday night game at Oklahoma State.
Texas Tech also moved up to a school-record No. 6 national ranking on Monday despite dropping the contest at Baylor over the weekend.
But there is one more possible scenario that could hurt the Red Raiders this week. Leading scorer Keenan Evans suffered an injury to his right foot versus Baylor and sat out the entire second half.
Texas Tech already lost 6-foot-8 forward Zach Smith to a broken bone in his foot in January, now it will potentially have to forge ahead with two of its best players out of action.
However, Beard isn't conceding that Evans won't play in Stillwater, Okla., on Wednesday.
"We all know Keenan is a warrior and he's going to do everything he possibly can to play, which I have nothing but confidence," Beard said during media availability on Monday. "We've got to eventually get him to a point where he's comfortable to play in pain."
Evans' status is listed as day-to-day, and whether Evans plays or not, Texas Tech (22-5, 10-4 Big 12) will face the same narrative against Oklahoma State that it did at Baylor on Saturday. The Red Raiders are trying to stay in the hunt for the Big 12 regular-season championship while they play teams that are desperate for victories to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
Oklahoma State (15-12, 5-9) has lost six of its last eight games, including losses in both contests last week by double digits. But it might not be too late considering the Cowboys' two wins in the last month were against No. 7 Kansas and No. 19 West Virginia.
"I'm really still excited about what this team can do over the next two weeks," Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said on Monday. "We've probably, in a lot of people's minds, already overachieved."
Boynton said most of his team's shortcomings can be fixed, especially its struggles on the defensive end.
Oklahoma State gave up an average of 86 points per game in losses to Kansas State and TCU last week.
"We can't be who we need to be to have success when we don't guard, and our defense has been pretty poor for some time now," Boynton said. "We've got a four-game season to get that corrected before whatever happens postseason-wise."
Texas Tech senior forward Justin Gray had one of his best offensive games of the season on Saturday when fellow senior Evans was on the bench with the foot injury. Gray finished with 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the 59-57 loss to Baylor.
Like his coach, Gray refused to concede that Evans would not play against Oklahoma State nor did he express concern about the Red Raiders' offensive production.
Gray merely stated that he and his teammates will have to match the Cowboys' intensity on their home floor.
"We're going to expect their best shot," Gray said. "We're in a position now that we have a target on our back being one of the top teams. So every game we have left this season, we're expecting the other team's best shot."