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Longhorns Open Big 12 Conference Play In Lubbock

GAME NOTES: The 12th-ranked Texas Longhorns will look to move to 12-1 under coach Rick Barnes in Big 12 Conference openers as they visit the Texas Tech Red Raiders at United Spirit Arena.

The Longhorns will look to bounce back tonight after falling in overtime, 82-81, to No. 8 Connecticut in their last contest. The loss snapped a six game win streak that had extended from a Dec. 11th win over Texas State, to a Jan. 4th defeat of Arkansas.

The Red Raiders opened the Big 12 portion of their schedule with a 71-59 loss to Baylor on Saturday. The defeat snapped a two game win streak. Baylor has posted an impressive 8-3 home record this season but has yet to win a game away from the confines of United Spirit Arena.

Texas holds a distinct, 72-53, all-time advantage over Texas Tech and hasn't lost to the Red Raiders since the 2007-08 season.

Credit Texas' defense, which held the nation's leading scorer Kemba Walker in check for much of the UConn game. Walker, who entered the contest averaging 26.1 ppg, was held to just 15 points in regulation. Indicative of a truly great scorer though, he shook off a poor shooting night to tally seven overtime points, including the game-winning three-pointer with five seconds to play. Walker shot just 8-of-27 from the floor in the contest. Texas guard Dogus Balbay checked the scintillating scorer for the bulk of the night and proved his mettle as an on-the-ball defender in the process. Offensively, the Longhorns posted five players in double figures. Jordan Hamilton and J'Covan Brown each scored 20 points to pace the squad, while Gary Johnson added 16 points, Tristan Thompson had 13 and Corey Joseph finished with 10. Over the last five contests, Hamilton has averaged a team-high 21 ppg on 48.2 percent shooting, including 43.2 percent from three-point range. While Hamilton packs a scoring wallop, his backcourt mate Johnson adds stability and leadership. A senior, Johnson has played in 103 career games. This season, he is averaging 12.1 ppg and 7.3 rpg. Brown, whose 20 points against UConn were a season-high, is a vital cog off the bench. He currently ranks fifth on the team in scoring (9.7 ppg), despite playing just 20.8 minutes per game. The Longhorns primarily rely on Joseph to initiate the offense. Through 15 games he has recorded a team-high 48 assists against just 25 turnovers. Over his last five games, Joseph has posted an impressive 4.75-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. Texas' useful mix of talented playmakers has led to a 78.5 ppg average, while defensively, the Longhorns stifle opponents, allowing just 63.1 ppg on 36.5 percent shooting.

Tech's 59 points against Baylor was its lowest scoring output of the season. The Red Raiders fought valiantly despite their scoring handicap. Trailing by as many as 12 in the second half, they battled back to take their first lead of the contest with 7:10 remaining. From there, the wheels fell off, as Baylor unleashed a 20-2 run to earn the victory. The Red Raiders went more than four minutes without recording a field goal during the crucial stretch run. On the night, Tech shot an anemic 35.8 percent from the floor. John Roberson proved an exception to the offensive woes, as he came off the bench to score a team- high 14 points on an efficient 5-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-7 from downtown. Guard David Tairu provided the Red Raiders' only other threat from the perimeter, as he hit 4-of-9 three-pointers. Roberson and Tairu removed, the Red Raiders went a combined 0-of-4 from beyond the arc. In reality, the Baylor loss is atypical. While they have their flaws, the Red Raiders have usually been able to rely on a potent offensive attack. The team averages a healthy 75.2 ppg on 45.5 percent shooting. Four players average in double figures, as Mike Singletary leads the team in both scoring (13.7 ppg) and rebounding (5.8 rpg). Brad Reese is a solid complement, as he is second on the team in both categories (12.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg). Roberson and Tairu round out the double digit scoring with 11.9 and 10.5 ppg, respectively. The Baylor game aside, it is typically the defense which fails Texas Tech. The team is allowing 73.4 ppg on 44.7 percent shooting.

The Red Raiders have proven that they are capable of putting the ball in the basket, but against strong defensive teams, the cylinder tends to shrink. The iron may clang with particular fervor tonight as the Red Raiders contend with the sound team defense of the Longhorns. On the other end, it seems the challenge of containing Hamilton may prove too tough for Texas Tech to handle.

GAME NOTES: The 12th-ranked Texas Longhorns will look to move to 12-1 under coach Rick Barnes in Big 12 Conference openers as they visit the Texas Tech Red Raiders at United Spirit Arena.

FACTS & STATS: Site: United Spirit Arena (15,098) -- Lubbock, Texas. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Texas 9-1, Texas Tech 8-3. Away Record: Texas 1-1, Texas Tech 0-3. Neutral Record: Texas 2-1, Texas Tech 0-2. Conference Record: Texas 0-0, Texas Tech 0-1. Series Record: Texas leads, 72-53.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.