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January 4, 2013

Full Court Focus: Previewing TCU vs. Texas Tech

The TCU basketball team opens up Big 12 play Saturday at home against Texas Tech. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.

The Horned Frogs (9-4) have won three in a row under first-year coach Trent Johnson. The Red Raiders (7-4), also under a first-year coach, Chris Walker, beat Florida A&M on Monday for their second win in a row.

Saturday will be the 13th straight meeting between the two teams. The Frogs beat Texas Tech 75-69 at home last year.

Here's a few items to get you prepped for tipoff:

Taking a Look at Texas Tech

The Red Raiders haven't racked up very many impressive wins, but they're 7-4, which nearly matches last year's win total (8), and considering the offseason controversy with former coach Billy Gillispie, three games above .500 isn't too bad of a spot to be in.

Best win: Grambling, 91-56.
Worst loss: McNeese State, 80-75

Last Time Out

TCU squeezed past Mississippi Valley State, 76-73, on Sunday. Kyan Anderson led the Frogs with 16 points, helping TCU to its third straight win. Adrick McKinney had a team-high nine rebounds.

Three Things

1. Get Kyan some help. Anderson has led TCU in scoring four times this year, and he's averaging a team-high 13 points a game. But he can only do so much. Against UAB, Anderson dropped 35, but the Frogs still narrowly won 76-73. It has to be a team effort on offense, and that starts with getting Garlon Green involved, which has happened lately. Green scored 20 points Dec. 18 against Southern and 31 in a win Dec. 22 at Rice. If Green has a similar impact against the Red Raiders, then TCU should be in good shape.

2. Beware of Tolbert. Texas Tech forward Jordan Tolbert has been relatively quiet early on, averaging 8.6 points and six rebounds a game. He's been an impact, but considering he led the team in scoring (11.7 ppg) as a freshman last year. This year, forward Jaye Crockett has been the guy for the Red Raiders, leading the team in scoring (15.9 ppg) and rebounding (9.2 rpg). TCU has proved it can shut down a team's premier threat, forcing Southern Utah's leading scorer, Jackson Stevenett, into an 0-for-10 shooting night. But in that same game, SU's Damon Heuir scored 25. For TCU, there has to be a focus on Crockett, but the Frogs can't forget how good Tolbert is, either.

3. Make them uncomfortable. Amazingly, Saturday will be the Red Raiders' first road game of the season. Put pressure on them early, rattle some confidence and get them out of a comfort zone. The crowd might not be great, mainly due to Christmas break still in session, but that won't change the fact that Texas Tech will be in a different arena, different locker room and different overall atmosphere. Don't let them settle in.

Numbers Watch

Since losing to Northwestern 55-31 on Nov. 23, TCU has scored at least 60 points five of its last seven games. Doesn't sound too incredible, but considering that benchmark is nearly double of the Frogs' entire output against the Wildcats, it's obvious progress has been made.

Also, a couple notables from Andy Anderson, the team's media relations director: 1) TCU ranks No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 7 in the country in scoring defense, holding opponents to 54.5 points a game, and 2) the Frogs will be trying to win their first game in a new league since beating Rice in 1923 as a first-year member of the Southwest Conference.

The Bottom Line

TCU needs to win this game, because from here on out the road only gets tougher, especially for an offensively-challenged team like the Frogs. Has TCU improved its scoring since the loss of Amric Fields? Yes. Is it at a level to carry the Frogs consistently through the Big 12? We'll first get a glance of that Saturday, but if TCU has trouble scoring against Texas Tech - one of the weakest teams in the conference - then it likely will continue to struggle over the next couple months.


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