Big 12 men’s basketball: Texas Tech’s late struggles testing coach, players

Posted Monday, Jan. 13, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Big 12 Players of the Week

Player of the Week

G Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: The sophomore from Flower Mound Marcus totaled 46 points and 24 rebounds in wins over Texas and West Virginia. He had a career-high 13 rebounds against WVU and had a combined 10 assists, seven steals, and two blocked shots with only three turnovers in the two games.

Newcomer of the Week

G Wayne Selden, Kansas: He scored a career-high 24 points, including five 3-pointers, in a win at Oklahoma. The freshman also was 7-of-10 from the field in an 86-60 win over Kansas State. He shot 59.3 percent from the field for the week, including 8-of-15 from the 3-point arc.

Key stat

8 Big 12 games decided by five points or fewer out of 15 games this season.

Quotable

“We don’t have anybody else who can rebound.” — Coach Bob Huggins on why 6-foot-1 guard Juwan Staten leads West Virginia in rebounding (6.1 per game).

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Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith has won everywhere he’s coached, so losing is never easy to take.

His first season with the Red Raiders has been a test. Texas Tech (8-8, 0-3 Big 12) has lost six of its last eight games, including its first three league games.

“They’re down,” Smith said. “I’m really concerned about where we are emotionally and psychologically. When you lose eight games it gets to be tough.”

Making it tough to swallow for Smith and the Red Raiders is a penchant for losing close games. They’ve lost three games by a total of eight points, including their last two league games. Both times, including an overtime loss at Texas, Tech failed to execute late.

“First, we have to keep my confidence up,” Smith said during the Big 12 teleconference Monday morning. “And that’s been really tested right now. Anytime you lose you might press. What should I have done differently? What do I need to change?”

Keeping a positive attitude is crucial, Smith said, to keeping the team focused.

“Letting them know we still believe in them and staying focused on the fundamentals,” he said. “Execution of the fundamentals in late-game situations has cost us three or four games this year.”

Filling the middle

When Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart got the ball in the paint with the Cowboys trailing West Virginia by one Saturday, the Mountaineers’ defense understandably converged. That left open Markel Brown, who hit the game-winning shot with 15 seconds remaining.

The ninth-ranked Cowboys (14-2, 2-1), who host TCU (9-6, 0-3) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, were able to force Juwan Staten into a tough shot and held on for the win.

“That’s what I liked most about it,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “We’re not the biggest team in the world, but we had a good presence late around the rim and made him take a tough shot, and that’s all you can ask for.”

With starting post Michael Cobbins injured, OSU has turned to sophomore Kamari Murphy, who pulled down the rebound to preserve the win.

“He had incredible experience,” Ford said of Cobbins, a 6-foot-8 junior lost for the season with an Achilles tear. “Hurt us in depth. It’s no question it hurt our team. But Kamari Murphy has stepped in and just played terrific. Couldn’t ask for more out of Kamari Murphy.”

Baylor goes deep

Baylor has nine players averaging more than 10 minutes a game, which gives coach Scott Drew untold options from game to game. The 12th-ranked Bears (13-2, 1-1) have remained unselfish, Drew said, and players accepting their roles has been a strength so far.

“Cory [Jefferson], Gary [Franklin] and Brady [Heslip] have done a great job making sure that everybody understands their role and is working for the betterment of the team,” Drew said. “I think we’ve had good chemistry and because of that our depth has been able to be a strength.”

Baylor had five players score in double figures in Saturday’s win against TCU, including Taurean Prince, who made 8 of 10 shots coming off the bench for a career-high 23 points.

Stefan Stevenson 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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