Game Preview: UW at Texas Tech (Game #6)

UW Texas Tech preview copy
The Huskies (5-0) will play the Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-0) on Thursday afternoon at 4:00 PM (Pacific) at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas. The game is part of the Big 12 / Pac-10 Hardwood Series. /

The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 and KJR-950 in Seattle, or your local Husky radio affiliate elsewhere (click here to find yours).

What you need to know about the Huskies:

The Huskies remain a perfect 5-0 after narrowly defeating Montana, 63-59, on Sunday night. The Huskies again struggled against a zone defense, and barely showed any of the offensive firepower they displayed during the opening weekend of the season.

The Huskies are ranked 12th in the AP poll and 10th in the Coaches’ Poll, their highest ranking since January 2006.

For the first time this season, Quincy Pondexter will be looking to bounce back from a game in which he struggled (7 points, 7 rebounds). Washington’s other star, Isaiah Thomas, also looks to rebound after shooting a combined 9-29 from the field in the previous two games.

This will be the eighth meeting between the Huskies and the Red Raiders, with UW winning five of the first seven games in the series. They last played in 1991, with the Huskies winning 59-57 in Lubbock.

Projected lineup: G – Venoy Overton, G – Isaiah Thomas, F – Quincy Pondexter, F – Matthew Bryan-Amaning, G/F – ??? (Lorenzo Romar said this week that Tyreese Breshers likely wouldn’t start, but didn’t say Darnell Gant would start either. Maybe Elston Turner or Abdul Gaddy gets the nod here?)

Husky to watch:

Junior guard, Venoy Overton: There’s no way to know whether the three-point attempt by Montana’s Anthony Johnson would’ve found the basket and tied the game in the final ten seconds on Sunday night. We have Overton, who blocked the potentially-decisive shot, to thank for that. Coming off one of his most heralded moments in a Husky uniform, Overton looks to be distinguishing himself as the most game-ready point guard on the roster, and earning some breathing room as the starter. Will Overton, an emotional player who depends on playing with an edge, thrive once he feels he’s sewn up the starting role, or get sloppier?

What you need to know about Texas Tech:

Texas Tech comes into the game at 7-0, most recently beating Samford at home, 74-53, last week.

The Red Raiders went 14-19 last season overall, and 3-13 in conference play, but had impressive wins over Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and Kansas.

Head coach Pat Knight is in his second full season as the head coach of the Red Raiders after taking over for his father, the legendary Bob Knight. He returns five of his top six performers from last season.

6’6″ junior wing Mike Singletary is one of the Red Raiders’ leaders, averaging 13.6 points and 5.4 rebounds to go with a team-high 3.4 turnovers per game. Quincy Pondexter and Justin Holiday will likely try to capitalize on Singletary’s propensity for mistakes and push him into making bad decisions with the ball.

Juco transfer David Tairu was named the Big 12’s rookie of the week, and was the MVP of the Duel in the Desert, in which the Red Raiders won three games. Tairu is averaging 11 points in only 23.3 minutes-per-game by shooting an economical 55.8% from the field and 61.5% (in only 13 attempts) from beyond the arc.

Point guard John Roberson (10.9 points, 4.9 assists), and forwards D’Walyn Roberts (9.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.4 blocks) and Darko Cohadarevic (9.3 points, 6 rebounds), round out the main pieces of the rotation along with guard Nick Okorie (8.3 points, 1.7 steals), a senior who brings experience and athleticism.

Projected lineup: G – John Roberson, G – Nick Okorie, F – Mike Singletary, F – D’Walyn Roberts, F – Darko Cohadarevic

Red Raider to watch:

Junior guard, John Roberson: Roberson was the team’s leading scorer (13.9 ppg) and led the Big 12 in assists last season (6.4 apg), but has set his sights toward improving last season’s 3.5 turnovers per game. Averaging about 32 minutes on the floor per contest, Roberson has nearly cut his turnovers in half so far. He’s also averaging almost two steals per game. Although the Huskies may choose to go with Isaiah Thomas for stretches guarding Roberson, it may take Venoy Overton’s defensive acumen to keep him in check.

The path to victory:

Battle in the post: The Huskies looked very vulnerable against talented Montana big man, Brian Qvale. While Texas Tech doesn’t have a regular player in its rotation as big as Qvale, its talented trio of forwards, Roberts, Cohadarevic and Brad Reese, still has the ability to give the Huskies trouble by collapsing on penetration and owning the boards. While both teams will earn more of their points from their guards and wing players, the battle down low may go along way to deciding the game.

Roles and responsibilities: A couple of readers have suggested recently that Lorenzo Romar’s frequent substitutions and experimentations with different lineups might be more beguiling to his own players than to opponents. I do empathize with Coach’s dilemma — he has 11 guys worthy of minutes at this level of basketball — but I also get the sense that reserves like Elston Turner, Justin Holiday and Scott Suggs might benefit from knowing night-to-night whether to expect 25 minutes, or five. I believe Coach when he says he just doesn’t know yet which nine guys he trusts the most, but would like to see him work this out soon.

A quick word about the opposition:

Texas Tech coach Pat Knight declined to speak with Montlake Madness for our game preview, but I thought these quotes from Lamar coach, Steve Roccaforte, were worth including. Lamar and Tech have played each other in many of the past few seasons, so Roccaforte’s take on this year’s squad is interesting.

"“I think his team this year is much improved,” Roccaforte said. “I think they are much more athletic. They’re playing a little different style, and I think it suits his personnel a whole heck of a lot better.”Roccaforte said Tech looks much more deliberate in its actions on the court. He said it looks like the Raiders have a plan on offense, knowing not only how to run the motion offense but how to use it to get the ball to certain players in certain spots on the court.“I don’t think they’re playing as careless and as reckless as they did last year,” Roccaforte said. “They really pushed the ball last year, they were taking a lot of shots off of one pass.“I think they’re deeper, more athletic, and they’re playing a style more suited to their personnel.”"

What I expect:

I expect that this will be the game in which we get a good sense of whether the real Huskies are the ones we saw dominate during the season’s opening weekend, or the ones we saw play a ho-hum game against San Jose State and struggle against Montana. I expect that we’ll see the “good” Huskies show up in Lubbock (and on ESPN2).

I expect Isaiah Thomas to bounce back during a game on national television and carry the scoring load against the Red Raiders.

I expect the Huskies to turn a corner and show that they are indeed deserving of their gaudy ranking in the polls. I’m picking the Dawgs by 11, 90-79.