No. 15 Kentucky, No. 18 Texas Tech up for Challenge

NCAA Basketball
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No. 15 Kentucky, No. 18 Texas Tech up for Challenge

Both No. 15 Kentucky and No. 18 Texas Tech get a break from conference play Saturday when they face each other in Lubbock, Texas, as part of the daylong Big 12-SEC Challenge.

The Wildcats (14-4) are coming off consecutive wins over SEC opponents Arkansas and Georgia. Ashton Hagans led the way with 23 points and nine assists in Tuesday’s 89-79 win at home over Georgia, while Nick Richards added 20 points.

Coach John Calipari decided to put the game in the hands of his players until he deemed it necessary to step in and speak to the team about finishing the win.

“I said how did they like the player-driven (responsibility) and they all said, `Yeah, yeah,” you know?” Calipari said. “I would like to go a full game without getting actively involved. This team became empowered during the last game. And now I think they’re feeling that it’s about each other.”

The last game before the win over Georgia was a 73-66 victory at Arkansas in front of a big crowd against a hot team.

Kentucky has four players averaging almost 14 points per game. Richards (13.7) and Hagans (13.6) are joined by guard Immanuel Quickley (13.6) and Tyrese Maxey (13.3) as the team’s top four scorers.

Kentucky, 2-1 against Top 25 teams this season and 3-3 all-time in the Big 12-SEC Challenge, has won all four career meetings against the Red Raiders, who are 4-2 in the six previous Big 12-SEC Challenges.

Texas Tech (12-6) could fall out of the Top 25 with a loss Saturday. The Red Raiders fell 65-54 at TCU on Tuesday night and have lost three of their last five games.

Texas Tech is 1-2 against Top 25 teams this season, but the win came against then-No. 1 Louisville on Dec. 10 in New York City.

At TCU, Texas Tech lost a 31-27 halftime lead by being outscored by 15 points in the second half. Jahmi’us Ramsey’s 15 points led the team.

“A lot of self-inflicting damage on ourselves,” forward TJ Holyfield told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal after the loss. “We turned the ball over too much. (Lack of) rebounding, getting to the free-throw line — a lot of little stuff that added up in the end.”

Ramsey’s 15.5 points per game leads the Red Raiders in scoring this season.

“We’re a work in progress,” Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said. “We return one starter from last year’s Final Four team and we return two players that played last year. Somehow we’ve built a team as we’ve gone along.

“We’ve had some amazing moments this year and we’ve played some really good basketball for extended periods of time, but we’re still searching for that complete game as are a lot of teams.”

The game has generated plenty of buzz in Lubbock, with ticket prices in the hundreds of dollars on the secondary market. The Red Raiders are 9-1 at home this season and their record doesn’t completely factor in how well they have played defensively this season.

–Field Level Media

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