LUBBOCK, Texas — No. 23 Texas Tech has just one more game before Big 12 play begins, as it looks to close an uneven nonconference performance with a win against Cal State Bakersfield Sunday.
The Red Raiders dropped three straight games before knocking off No. 1 Louisville, vaulting themselves back into the national conversation and the Associated Press Top 25. Texas Tech hasn’t lost since then, but it hasn’t won convincingly either.
Cal State Bakersfield gives the Red Raiders an opportunity to do so. The Roadrunners are 6-8 on the season with losses to lower level schools like Idaho and Sam Houston State. They lost big to Gonzaga, the only other ranked team they’ve played.
The first thing Texas Tech needs to do to record a convincing win is get off too a good start. The Red Raiders tumbled into first half deficits of eight against UTRGV and seven against Southern Miss. Building an early lead against CSU Bakersfield and consistently building on it will be a nice sign heading into conference play.
“Certainly one of the most important parts of a game is those first four minutes,” Chris Beard said. “So we’re always trying to give our guys the best chance to start off strong.”
While the Roadrunners don’t have the most impressive resume, they do have an experienced team: only three underclassmen are on the roster. Beard believes it is better than any team Texas Tech has played at home so far this season.
“Certainly there’s a relationship in college basketball between experience and success,” Beard said. “It’s going to be a tough, tough test for us.”
CSU Bakersfield thrives on the glass. The team grabs nearly 10 more opponents per game than its opponents, and that number isn’t an individual effort. The leading rebounder averages 4.8 per game.
That rebounding prowess could cause problems for Texas Tech, as Beard has been forced into using smaller lineups. T.J. Holyfield is the lone true big man that gets consistent minutes and he has been in foul trouble for much of the season.
Despite that, Texas Tech has done a good job of rebounding throughout the season. The Red Raiders will have to fight on the glass on Sunday to keep that up.
The Louisville win got Texas Tech on the right track, but it has been far from perfect since then. A lopsided win over CSU Bakersfield would be a clear sign that the team is gelling before its competition gets stiff.