Houston Cougars vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders Pick & Prediction JANUARY 17th 2024

In the aftermath of a white-knuckle, one-point victory over Kansas State on Saturday that extended Texas Tech’s winning streak to nine games, Red Raiders first-year coach Grant McCasland heaped praise on his team.

Texas Tech (14-2, 3-0 Big 12) rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to secure a 60-59 win over the Wildcats and extend its longest winning streak since the 2018-19 campaign.

The 25th-ranked Red Raiders are off to their best start in conference play in 20 years as they will travel to face fifth-ranked Houston (14-2, 1-2) on Wednesday. Texas Tech will be seeking its second road victory over a ranked conference opponent this season following a triumph at then-No. 20 Texas on Jan. 6.

Texas Tech entered the AP poll on Monday for the first time this season. Houston will be just the second ranked opponent of the season for the Red Raiders, who have discovered the intestinal fortitude necessary to overcome in-game challenges, a trait that wasn’t always consistently present during the nonconference slate.

“This team just learns,” McCasland said. “We learn as we play. Their heart is to get better. We weren’t discouraged. We let missed shots affect us early in the year, but we are not doing that right now.

“We’re just like, ‘We are going to win the game. Let’s just find a way.'”

Meshing takes time and repetition. The Red Raiders needed a handful of games to establish an identity under McCasland, and recent results suggest they have indeed uncovered who they are.

Central to that identity is a reliance on multiple scoring options, with Pop Isaacs (16.3 points per game), Joe Toussaint (14.1), Devan Cambridge (10.5) and Warren Washington (10.0) all averaging double figures. Darrion Williams (9.7) and Chance McMillian (9.1) are not far behind.

The balanced approach and a shared competitive spirit have served the Red Raiders well.

“I think we just have a big will to win,” Williams said. “I mean, none of us like losing. We push each other every day in practice.”

The Cougars are trending in the opposite direction, having dropped back-to-back road games to Iowa State and TCU by a combined five points, including a 68-67 loss to the Horned Frogs on Saturday during which Houston led by 12. Still, with nine of the top 11 teams falling to unranked foes last week, the Cougars only dropped three spots in the poll, and they still own a 14-game home-court winning streak.

“We played two road games (and went) 0-2 and we were in position to win them both,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “We’ve got to go home, get ready and play a big home game.”

Like Texas Tech, No. 19 TCU joined the national rankings this week, giving the Big 12 a nation-leading eight ranked programs. Among that list is No. 20 BYU, which Houston will host on Jan. 23.

The Cougars are making their initial foray into the Big 12 this season, and the step up in competition from the American Athletic Conference has already proven to be challenging.

“We should be 3-0,” Sampson said. “We could easily be 3-0 but we’re not, so we move to the next game.”

–Field Level Media

Docsports, The most trusted name in sports handicapping