PREVIEW: Northern Kentucky

PREVIEW: Northern Kentucky

Jarrett Culver Jarrett Culver

LUBBOCK, Texas – Texas Tech is Tulsa bound as the No. 3 seed in the West Region where the Red Raiders will play Northern Kentucky at 12:30 p.m. on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the BOK Center.

The No. 9-ranked Red Raiders (26-6) earned their first Big 12 Conference regular-season championship after going 14-4 in conference play and will be making their 17th NCAA tournament appearance in program history. The No. 14-seeded Norse (26-8) are the Horizon League Tournament champion and regular-season co-champion. Tech, which advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight last season, made its tournament debut in 1954 and are back in consecutive seasons for the fourth time. The Red Raiders and NKU have met once in program history with Tech earning a 75-69 win on Dec. 4, 2012 in Lubbock. 
"We respect their program and they are really well-coached," Texas Tech coach Chris Beardsaid. "They have an identity where they are explosive and balanced offensively and they will be one of the toughest defenses we've played this year. They are very talented with their conference MVP and several other guys who are all-conference players. They've got experience and young talent. This is the NCAA tournament and personally I don't believe in seeding. You get in the tournament and everybody is good with anyone being able to beat anybody. I've been fortunate enough in my career to be on both sides of these. There is nothing but respect from our program to theirs and we know that we will have to play really well to advance to the second round. We're looking forward to the opportunity to play on Friday."
The Texas Tech-Northern Kentucky winner will advance to the second round on Sunday with the game time to be announced on Friday night. In the other matchup this weekend in Tulsa, No. 6 seed Buffalo (31-3) will play the winner of the Arizona State (22-10) and St. John's (21-12) matchup that will be played on Wednesday. The first-round game for the Red Raiders will be broadcasted on TNT.
Texas Tech, which is a No. 3 seed for the second straight season and third time in program history, enters the national tournament second in the country by limiting opponents to 36.8 percent shooting through 32 games and are fourth by holding teams to 59.3 points per game. The Red Raiders have held 12 opponents under 55 points this season, while on offense the team is scoring 73.1 points per game and is shooting 47.2 percent. Jarrett Culver was named the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year and leads the Red Raiders with 18.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in his sophomore season. Davide Moretti leads the nation at 93.3 percent from the free-throw line and is shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 47.8 percent on 3-pointers where he has made at least one 3-pointer in 21 straight games. Tech is shooting 36.8 percent on 3-pointers, matching the number they are limiting teams to from the field and are holding the opposition to only 30.1 percent on 3-pointers which ranks 17th nationally.
Led by Tariq Owens who has established a new program single-season record with 78 blocked shots, the Red Raiders rank 15th in with 4.9 blocks per game and are 26th with 15.66 turnovers forced per game with Matt Mooney averaging 1.72 per game which is second out of the Big 12. Owens has at least one blocked shot in every game this season, while Mooney is averaging 10.9 points per game and leads the team with 55 steals. As graduate transfers, Mooney and Owens will be making their NCAA tournament debuts in their senior seasons while Culver, Moretti, Brandone Francis, Malik Ondigo, Avery Benson and Parker Hicks are back for the second straight season. Texas Tech's Norense Odiase and Andrew Sorrells will be making their third NCAA appearance after also being a part of the 2016 team that earned a berth for the first time since 2007. Kyler Edwards, Deshawn Corprew and Josh Mballa are in their first season with the program and will also be making their first appearances in the tournament.

POLLS: Texas Tech will go into the national tournament at No. 10 in the NCAA NET Rankings, No. 9 in the Associated Press Top-25 and No. 10 in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll after winning the program's first-ever Big 12 Conference regular-season championship. The Red Raiders have now been ranked in the AP Top-25 and USA TODAY Coaches Poll for 16 straight weeks after being unranked entering the season following last year's NCAA Elite Eight run. Tech first entered the AP poll in the fourth week of the season at No. 20 and climbed to No. 8 in Week 10. The highest ranking in program history came last season at No. 6.
PLAYER NOTES: Jarrett Culver was named the first Big 12 Conference Player of the Year in program history and has also earned USBWA and Sporting News All-America honors after averaging 18.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. A sophomore from Lubbock, Culver enters the NCAA tournament having scored 1,008 career points after recording a career-high 31 in the regular-season finale at Iowa State and then recording his fourth double-double of the season with 26 points and 10 rebounds in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals against West Virginia. Culver averaged 7.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in last year's NCAA Elite Eight run, including scoring 11 points against Florida and Villanova. Culver went for 11 points and nine rebounds against Florida to help propel the team to the Sweet 16. This season, he was 12-for-19 from the field with four 3-pointers in the win that secured the regular-season title for the Red Raiders in Ames. Culver is the first player to reach 1,000 points as a freshman-sophomore in program history and is the 42nd player in program history to reach the milestone. His 17.8 points per game in Big 12 play ranked as the program's fifth most. Culver was named the Big 12 Conference Player of the Week for the third time this season last Monday to celebrate his 31 against ISU after he went for 16 points and seven rebounds against Texas in the home finale. He won three Big 12 Player of the Week honors this season after securing his second three weeks ago after going for 26 points against Kansas and followed it by recording his third double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Oklahoma State. Culver has led the team in scoring in 20 of 32 games and finished the conference campaign averaging 17.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and has 57 assists. Culver is a finalist for the Jerry West Award finalist and John R. Wooden Award along with being on the Oscar Robertson Trophy and Lute Olson Award watch lists. He was named to the Sporting News All-America second-team and earned Big 12 First Team to go along with his Player of the Year honor. He has scored in double figures in 31 of 32 games and is shooting 48.5 percent from the field overall and was 44.6 percent in Big 12 play. Culver had recorded a previous career-high with 30 points against Abilene Christian on Dec. 20 where he went 12-for-13 from the field and hit four 3-pointers. He was named the Big 12 Player of the Week for the first time this season after the performance and followed it by going to New York and scoring 25 points against Duke. Culver is averaging 24.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in March where he is 12-for-14 from the free-throw line and also leads the team with seven steals over the past three games.
Davide Moretti was named an All-Big 12 Conference Third Team selection as one of the top shooters in the nation. He currently leads the nation by shooting 93.3 percent at the free-throw line after going 84-for-90 in games leading into the national tournament. Moretti is shooting 50.5 percent from the field and a program-best 47.8 percent on 3-pointers to go along with his free-throw percentage. Moretti averaged 4.8 points per game during last year's NCAA tournament, including scoring seven in the Sweet 16 win over Purdue before going for seven more in the loss to Villanova. He is coming off a game where he scored 10 points against WVU after going off for 20 points with four 3-pointers at Iowa State in the regular season finale. He hit two 3-pointers in the conference tournament quarterfinal and has now made at least one 3-pointer in 21 straight games. Moretti was 4-for-4 at the line to extend his streak to 20 straight made free throws in the win over ISU but did not shoot a free throw against the Mountaineers. He led Texas Tech with 20 points after going 12-for-12 from the free-throw line and 2-for-2 on 3-pointers at Oklahoma State and followed it by scoring 15 points at TCU with three more 3-pointers. Moretti, who averaged 13.2 points and 2.7 assists in conference play, has made a 3-pointer in 28 of 32 games this season for the Red Raiders. Moretti recorded a career-high 21 points against Arkansas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge after going 6-for-9 from the field with three 3-pointers. He shot 53.5 percent on 3-pointers in conference play and is 64-for-134 from beyond the arc this season. His 64 3-pointers are the most since Toddrick Gotcher hit 62 in the 2015-16 season, while the single-season record is 94 from Cory Carr who made 94 in the 1996-97 season. Moretti scored in double figures in 16 of 18 Big 12 games this season and now has 498 points through 69 games in his career. He has started all 32 games for the Red Raiders this season after making one start in 37 games played as a freshman. A coach's son from Italy, Moretti is averaging 11.6 points and 2.6 assists per game in his second season with the program. Moretti made a career-high five 3-pointers against MVSU in non-conference play.
After losing five seniors off last season's NCAA Elite Eight team, Texas Tech remained a veteran team through recruiting by adding graduate transfers Matt Mooney (University of South Dakota) and Tariq Owens (St. John's) to go along with returners Norense Odiase and Brandone Francis to make up a senior class of four for the Red Raiders. Mooney was named to the All-Big 12 Second-Team, the Big 12 Newcomer Team and he and Owens were both selected for the Big 12 All-Defensive Team. Owens was advanced to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award Semifinalist Watch List. Mooney and Owens were on the original list, making TTU the only team with two members on the original list of 15.
Owens has recorded three blocks in four straight games to take his new single-season program record to 78 entering the national tournament. He also had a season-high 14 rebounds in the win over the Cyclones in the regular-season finale and then went for 14 points against WVU at the tournament. He would record his third double-double of the season by securing 13 rebounds at TCU where he also added 12 points in Fort Worth. Owens has scored in double figures in six of the last eight games and has averaged 10.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in the last five games. He secured his second double-double of the season by scoring 12 points and adding 10 rebounds in the first matchup at Kansas and has at least one blocked shot in all 32 games this season. An Odenton, Maryland native, he had one of his best offensive games of the season after scoring 17 points in the first matchup against TCU where he was 7-for-9 from the field, including going 2-for-2 on 3-pointers in the first matchup between the two teams. Owens is averaging 8.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots going into the weekend in Tulsa. He had 43 blocks in Big 12 play and was fourth in the conference with a 60.2 shooting percentage. Owens, who led the BIG EAST in blocks the past two seasons while playing at St. John's, established a new Texas Tech single-game record with eight blocks in the win over Memphis on Dec. 1 in Miami after starting his Red Raider career with six blocks against Incarnate Word in the season opener. He had a season-high 18 points against Southern Cal in Kansas City and recorded the team's first double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds in his eight-block performance against Memphis. Owens transferred to Tech after playing his freshman season at Tennessee and then two years at St. John's. He came to Lubbock with 179 blocked shots and now has 258 in his career.
Mooney is averaging 10.9 points, 3.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game for the Red Raiders entering the first NCAA tournament of his career. A graduate transfer, Mooney earned Big 12 Conference Second-Team honors along with being named to the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team and Big 12 All-Defensive Team. He is coming off a game against WVU where he hit three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points and five assists for the second straight game. He went for 13 points, four steals and five assists in the win over Iowa State in the regular-season finale and now has 43 assists in the past 10 game. His conference season has been highlighted by scoring a season-high 22 points at Texas where he was 8-for-10 from the field with three 3-pointers and scored in double-figures in 10 conference games this season. He now has three games in his collegiate career with five 3-pointers and has 38 3-pointers this season for the Red Raiders. He comes into Tulsa having 10 games with five assists or more, including seven games with six assists. Through the 18 conference games, he averaged 11.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 3.1 assists per game in Big 12 play. An Illinois native, Mooney started his career at Air Force before playing two seasons at South Dakota where he led his team in scoring both years. He is shooting 42.8 percent from the field this season, has scored in double figures in 18 games and leads the team with 55 steals after having 20 during the last 10. He's had at least one steal in 27 of 32 games this season going into Tulsa. Mooney transferred to Tech having recorded 1,480 points, 166 steals and 228 assists at Air Force and South Dakota. He now has 1,827 points, 221 steals and 334 assists in his collegiate career.
Odiase has made 105 career starts and played in 120 games as a Red Raider and is averaging 4.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.0 block per game in his senior season. He has played in five NCAA tournament games and has 10 rebounds in those games. He would record back-to-back double-digit rebounding performances with 11 rebounds at OU after having 10 against West Virginia in the regular season and then had a three-block performance against Texas to highlight his success down the stretch for the Red Raiders. Odiase had five rebounds in the win over ISU in the regular-season finale to finish with nine conference games with five or more rebounds. He had a season-high nine points against the Mountaineers. The career resume boasts 556 rebounds, 597 points and 76 blocked shots in his career as a Red Raider that includes two trips the NCAA tournament. A Fort Worth native, Odiase is shooting 56.0 percent from the field. He had his first career-high 13 rebound performance in the win over Southeastern Louisiana on Nov. 13 after a 10-rebound game against Mississippi Valley State. Odiase scored seven points to go along with his seven rebounds against Duke after going 3-for-4 from the field and finished with 91 rebounds and 20 blocks in conference play.
Francis is averaging 6.2 points and 1.5 assists per game in his senior season where he has made at least one 3-pointer in 23 games. He went for 12 points and four rebounds on his Senior Night after hitting two 3-pointers against Texas and followed it with two big second-half 3-pointers against ISU in the regular-season finale. After scoring five points in the loss to WVU, he now has 36 3-pointers on the season. A reserve in 31 of 32 games this season with an average of 23.5 minutes per game, Francis had a streak of seven straight games with a 3-pointer end at OSU but has made six in the past four games. A Dominican Republic native, he started his career at Florida before transferring to Lubbock where he averaged 5.1 points per game with 33 3-pointers as a junior during the Elite 8 run, including a career-high 17 points in the win over West Virginia. Francis scored 13 points in the opener against UIW and would contribute 10 points and a career-high six assists in the neutral-court win over Memphis. He has scored 387 points in 69 games in his career for the Red Raiders.
Texas Tech sophomore Deshawn Corprew was 5-for-6 from the field with 12 points in the win at TCU and followed it by recording seven points and six rebounds in the win over Texas. He was held scoreless for only the second time this season at ISU and then had two in the conference tournament against WVU. He was coming off a game where he scored seven points against OSU and was 2-for-2 on 3-pointers against KU. During the last 10 games, Corprew is 24-for-39 from the field and 8-for-17 on 3-pointers. He is averaging 5.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game this season. A transfer from South Plains College, he recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds against UTRGV. Corprew, who made his first career start in that game against UTRGV, was 6-for-8 from the field to match a previous career-high of 13 points that he also had against Northern Colorado. Kyler Edwards is averaging 5.4 points and 1.2 assists per game in his freshman season. He recorded a career-high six assists and added eight points in the win over OU and shot 32.4 on 3-pointers in conference play. He scored nine points in two conference games, first in the home game against KSU and then against Iowa State before going 3-for-3 from the field for eight points in Norman. A guard from Arlington, he has scored nine or more points in eight games this season and has recorded four double-digit scoring performances. Edwards recorded a career-high 19 points against Northern Colorado where he went 7-for-7 from the field with four 3-pointers. Avery Benson scored a career-high five points against Baylor after recording a career-high three steals in 11 minutes against WVU, while Parker Hicks scored a career-high with five points against the Mountaineers.  Hicks was 2-for-4 from the field, including hitting one of the eight 3-pointers by the Red Raiders in the 31-point win.
Northern Kentucky (NKU PREVIEW LINK): The Norse enter the NCAA tournament having won five straight games, including earning a 77-66 win over Wright State to secure the Horizon League Tournament Championship. NKU (26-8) went 13-5 throughout its conference schedule and is led by John Brannen who is in his fourth season with the program. The Norse are averaging 79.1 points per game with 301 3-pointers made this season and rank seventh in the nation with 581 total assists this season. NKU is averaging 17.1 assists per game led by Jalen Tate who has 122 on the season.
Drew McDonald leads the team with 19.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, while Tyler Sharpe and Tate are at 14.0 points per game. A 6-8 senior, McDonald averaged 20.1 points per game in conference play and is coming off a game where he had 13 points and eight rebounds in the tournament final. Dantez Walton led the Norse in the tournament championship game with 15 points and 14 rebounds and comes into the NCAA tournament averaging 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Sharpe leads the team with 86 3-pointers made this season at a 37.7 percentage, while Walton has made 61 3-pointers. McDonald has made 145 free throws which was second in the Horizon League.
AWARDS: Jarrett Culver (Big 12 Player of the Year, John R. Wooden Award Finalist, Jerry West Award Finalist, USBWA All-America 2nd Team, Sporting News All-America 2nd Team, All-Big 12 First-Team, 3-time Big 12 Player of the Week, Big 12 All-Academic Team); Matt Mooney (All-Big 12 Second Team, All-Big 12 Newcomer Team, All-Big 12 Defensive Team); Davide Moretti (All-Big 12 Third-Team, CoSIDA Academic All-District, Academic All-Big 12); Tariq Owens (All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, All-Big 12 Defensive Team, Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Semifinalist); Andrew Sorrells, Avery Benson, Parker Hicks, Norense Odiase, Malik Ondigo(Academic All-Big 12); Chris Beard (Big 12 Coach of the Year; USBWA District Coach of the Year).
COVERING TECH: The Red Raiders and Norse will be featured on TNT on Friday with Brad Nessler, Steven Lavin and Jim Jackson calling the game. Evan Washburn will be reporting on the game for the network.  On the radio, Geoff Haxton and Chris Level will broadcast on Texas Tech Sports Network's flagship station Double T 97.3 in Lubbock. Fans can interact with the broadcast by following @GunsUpRadio on Twitter.
NEW CONFERENCE RECORD: Texas Tech established a new program record by winning 14 conference games this season. The Red Raiders broke the previous mark of 11 games that was established last season and also set a new mark by winning nine conference games in a row. Before the last two seasons, Tech had recorded 10 conference wins in the 2004-05, 2001-02 and 1996-97 seasons.
SERIES HISTORY: Texas Tech and Northern Kentucky will be meeting for the second time ever after the Red Raiders earned a 75-69 win back on Dec. 4, 2012 in Lubbock. Jaye Crockett led the Raiders in the game by scoring 16 points and securing eight rebounds as a reserve, while Josh Gray went for 14 points to help lead Tech to a 5-1 record at that point in the season.
COACH NOTES: Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard has been named a Werner Ladder Naismith Men's College Coach of the Year Finalist and is now 71-30 in three seasons as the Red Raider coach. Beard was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year this season after earning the Big 12 Co-Coach of the Year last season and leading the program to its first-ever NCAA Elite Eight appearance in his second year. Under Beard, Tech is 50-5 at home and has secured a third seed in the national tournament in back-to-back seasons. Beard is 4-2 in the NCAA tournament after leading the Red Raiders to the Elite Eight last season and also guiding Little Rock to an 85-83 first-round win over Purdue on March 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
ELITE DEFENSE: Texas Tech has allowed only five opponents to score over 70 points and has limited 11 to under 55 points. Opponents are averaging just 62.6 points per game in the past 10 games and have been limited to 37.3 percent shooting from the field and 35.9 percent on 3-pointers. Texas was held to 29.6 percent shooting in Tech's home finale which made them the sixth opponent this season to shoot under 30 percent against the Red Raiders.
FAST STARTS: Texas Tech has led at halftime by double-digits in eight of its last 12 games: at TCU (+18), Oklahoma State (+10), Kansas (+25), Baylor (+13), at Oklahoma State (+19), at Oklahoma (+11), West Virginia (+15) and TCU (+16). The only discrepancies during the stretch is a nine-point hole against WVU at the Big 12 tournament, a two-point deficit at Iowa State, a nine-point lead over Texas and a 20-point halftime deficit at Kansas.
25-WIN MILESTONE: The Red Raiders have now won 25 games or more four times in program history as they enter the national tournament. The team won 27 games last season, 25 in the 1975-76 season and set the program record with 30 wins in the 1995-96 season. Tech reached the 20-win milestone with its victory over Oklahoma State and has now recorded 20 wins in a season 13 times in program history. The team went 27-10 last season and has now had back-to-back 20-win years for the first time since the 2003-04 and 2004-05 under head coach Bob Knight. We are in the midst of the only time in program history with two straight 25-win seasons.
MAINTAINING POSSESSION: Texas Tech has a plus-4.0 turnover margin advantage during the course of the last 10 games. The Red Raiders have forced 149 turnovers by their opponents during those games and have only lost 109 possessions. For the season, TTU has a plus-3.3 turnover margin advantage which was second in the Big 12 and is 24th nationally. Tech committed only nine turnovers at ISU, had seven against Texas and OSU and limited turnovers to eight against KU during the stretch of wins. Tech has not had more turnovers than their opponents in 12 games. The team has 11 games with single-digit turnovers this season and had a season-low six turnovers in the non-conference win over Northern Colorado.
ROAD SHOW: Texas Tech went 6-3 on the road in conference play after earning wins at West Virginia, Texas, OU, OSU, TCU and Iowa State. The Red Raiders finished the regular-season 9-4 away from home, including wins over Southern Cal and Nebraska at the Sprint Center and over Memphis in Miami. The team is 3-2 in neutral court games coming into Tulsa.
HOME DOMINANCE: Texas Tech matched a program record by going 17-1 at home this season and is 50-5 at home under Chris Beard the past three seasons. In Big 12 play, the Red Raiders finished the year with an 8-1 record on their home court this season and are 22-5 during the Beard era. Tech is currently 93-75 in conference play and 248-90 all-time at the United Supermarkets Arena since the first game on Nov. 19, 1999. The Red Raiders went 9-0 this season at home in non-conference play to extend a 47-game non-conference home winning streak. The Red Raiders pushed that total to 47 with a 67-64 win over Arkansas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Jan. 26. They will go into next season on a seven-game home winning streak with the only loss this season coming in a 68-64 loss to Iowa State on Jan. 16.

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